Obama's news conference - like watching paint dry but 50 million watch

President Obama's first prime time press conference attracted 49.5 million viewers on Monday night.

No, it wasn't the most exciting thing you could ever watch.

It wasn't like a spectacular car chase, or that evolution of dance video, or what's been called the greatest moment in sporting history (except if you were rooting for the USSR), but it wasn't supposed to be entertaining.

Still, nearly 50 million people (49.5) tuned in to watch President Obama's first prime time press conference Monday night on eight networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Univision, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC).

Bronze medalist

How does this compare to other presidential news conferences? It wasn't a record breaker.

President Clinton had 64.3 million people watch his first press conference in 1993. And 64.8 million tuned for President George W. Bush's prime time address following the 9/11 attacks in October 2001.

Variety notes that "today's audience is much more splintered, with the average home receiving 118 channels today, according to Nielsen. By comparison, the average viewer in 1993 had just 40 channels to choose from, while that number rose to 61 channels in 2000."

By the way, numbers aren't available for Joe Biden's favorite: FDR's television address to the nation following the 1929 stock market crash.


Who won the battle of the networks? Among cable outlets, Fox News racked up the biggest numbers with 4.3 million people, CNN had 3.2 million, and MSNBC had 2.1 million.

Among the networks, ABC was the winner with 11.49 million viewers, followed by CBS (10.3 million), NBC (9.75 million), and Fox (5.9 million).

These numbers do not include people who watched the address on the Internet.

In case you didn't watch it, Monitor colleague Linda Feldmann has a full recap here.

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