The Digital Bright Spot for SOTU Viewing

By Brian Flood 

This year’s State of the Union was viewed by 31.71 million people on 13 TV networks — the lowest viewership since 2000, when 31.47 watched on 7 networks. That’s disappointing for both the White House and the news networks that spend a lot of time, money and energy producing hours of coverage.

But the cable news networks are increasingly relying on their digital outlets to bring in viewers.

MSNBC was the least-watched of the big three cable networks, but saw viewer growth and engagement on the digital front. In the 9-11 pm time slot, total unique visitors to were up +130% and total video starts were up +267% compared to last year’s SOTU.

MSNBC saw record highs in engagement across all platforms. Videos posted to Facebook reached more than 4.5 million people.

For the first time, the MSNBC site shift offered live analysis as well as an interactive experience for its audience that complemented SOTU television coverage. Krystal Ball, Dorian Warren, and Josh Barro hosted the original programming, which featured the president’s speech, the GOP response, and analysis.

MSNBC isn’t the only network to show digital growth, as was up nearly +10% in the number of page views and nearly +25% in video starts on Tuesday vs. the week prior, according to Omniture data. Overall on the Politics page, the site was up +20% in page views.

CNN TV was the only network to see overall viewership growth — up +27% in viewers and up +40% in the demo. But interestingly, online traffic was flat from last year’s SOTU in both page views and uniques. Meanwhile, video clips and social media thrived. Video starts were up +79% from last year’s SOTU and #CNNSOTU trended globally on Twitter. There were 37,000 mentions of #CNNSOTU on Tuesday alone – up 10,000 from SOTU 2014.