President Obama’s first televised press conference averaged 36.9 million viewers across the four major broadcast networks and 49.5 million overall according to Nielsen ratings. The news conference received a 30.8 household rating on eight networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Univision, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
Bill Clinton's first primetime press conference in 1993 (when there were three times fewer cable channels in the average home), was carried by four networks and drew 64.3 million viewers with a household rating of 42.1. George W. Bush's primetime address in October 2001 following the 9/11 terror attacks averaged 64.8 million viewers across seven networks and got a 42.0.
The conference went almost exactly an hour, starting at 8, and had similar ratings across ABC (3.1/8), CBS (3.0/8), and NBC (3.1/8). ABC was tops among total viewers with 11.5 million. Fox also aired the press conference but finished fourth with a 2.2/6. The CW drew a 0.8/2 with a re-run of Gossip Girl.
On cable, Fox News won the 8 p.m. hour in total viewers with 4.27 million followed by CNN (3.2 million) and MSNBC (2 million), while CNN edged out FNC in the 25-54 demo (1.19 million to 1.11 million). MSNBC averaged 653,000 in the demo.
After the press conference ended a few minutes after 9 p.m., Fox News went to The O'Reilly Factor, with the host offering his take on the presser. CNN had it's political panel anchored by Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Campbell Brown. From 8-11 p.m., FNC led with 3.42 million viewers with 884,000 of them in the demo followed by CNN (2.36 viewers, 842,000 in the demo) and MSNBC (1.59 million, 548,000 in the demo).
On the night, CBS won a close race with ABC, thanks in part to new episodes of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, which had a series high, according to fast national ratings.
CBS won the 9 p.m. hour with a 4.7/11 during their half-hour blocks of Two and a Half Men (4.7/11) and The Big Bang Theory (4.6/10), the two highest-rated show of the night. ABC’s The Bachelor drew a 4.2/10 over the hour for second place. NBC and Fox ran close for third with NBC’s Heroes (3.5/8) edging out 24 (3.4/8). The CW aired a re-run of One Tree Hill (0.6/1).
CBS took the 10 p.m. hour, beating ABC by only one point with CSI: Miami (3.9/10) edging the second hour of The Bachelor (3.8/10). NBC was third in the time slot with Medium (2.7/7).
For the night, CBS won with a 3.8/9, closely followed by ABC’s 3.7/9. CBS led in total viewers with 12.5. NBC finished third at 3.1/8 and Fox was fourth at 2.8/7. The CW finished in fifth with a 0.7/2.
Marisa Guthrie contributed reporting to this article