No president has ever been as focused on television ratings as Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the president woke up to some bad news about viewership for one of his most important nationally televised speeches.
Overnight ratings showed Trump's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night drew a good amount of viewers but fell short of the figures earned by former President Barack Obama. All the seven major news networks — Fox News, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN — combined for a 27.8 household rating, Variety reported. Obama's address to Congress about one month into his presidency drew a far larger 33.4 household rating.
Fox News, known to be the most conservative of the news channels, predictably drew the highest ratings for the speech delivered by the Republican president. It garnered a 6.4 rating, trailed by NBC at 5.5, CBS at 4.6, ABC at 4.0, CNN at 3.0, Fox at 2.3, and MSNBC at 2.0.
Trump, former host of the reality show "The Apprentice," often talked of the ratings boost he gave networks during the campaign. He even opened the National Prayer Breakfast this month by poking fun at his replacement on the NBC reality show and its creator Mark Burnett.
"And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place," Trump said. "And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster. And Mark will never ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can for those ratings, OK?"
The initial overnight ratings for Trump's speech, which was generally well-received even if it didn't shift some of his unpopular policy positions, don't necessarily tell the entire picture. The overnight ratings simply show the percentage of households tuned in but not the total viewership figures. The initial Obama speech that registered a 33.4 overnight rating translated into 52.4 million viewers, the most of his presidency.
The Washington Post collected the viewership figures for all of Obama's speeches and noted that if Trump can top "Obama's last mark, he will be able to say that he reversed a downward trend." Obama's final address to Congress in 2016 drew just 31.3 million viewers, a number Trump seems likely to beat with his 27.8 rating.
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