President Biden’s State of the Union address reached more than 38 million people in the United States on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.
Around the world, Biden’s message about the Russian invasion of Ukraine was seen by a far larger total audience, but there is no standardized way to measure viewership across countries and platforms.
In just his own country, 38.2 million people watched Biden’s speech across sixteen different networks, according to overnight ratings.
Biden reached a much bigger audience on Tuesday than he did with his first address to a joint session of Congress last April. Nielsen estimated that 26.9 million people watched that speech.
High interest in the war in Ukraine certainly contributed to higher viewership of Biden’s address this time.
CNN on Tuesday recorded its highest audience for a State of the Union address since 2009, the year of newly-inaugurated president Barack Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
Ratings for CNN and Fox News have been highly elevated for the past week, reflecting widespread American interest in war coverage.
During the State of the Union, Fox News had the largest overall audience, with about 6.9 million viewers. ABC was the highest-rated broadcast network, with 5.9 million viewers, and CNN averaged 4.6 million.
Biden’s total audience came in lower than Former President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speeches. Trump’s first three speeches to joint sessions of Congress drew between 45 and 48 million viewers; the audience for his final State of the Union dipped to 37 million viewers.
Outside the political sphere, TV viewership of live events is receding as more people spend more time watching on-demand programming.
Nielsen’s live-TV estimates don’t account for all the ways an event like a presidential address is delivered all across the internet, not to mention radio and other formats.