Presidential Press Conference, 'Biggest Loser' Win Tuesday

Rash Report: But 19% Fewer Viewers Tuned in for Obama Than in February

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- With the American president bumping Fox's "American Idol," the big winner was "The Biggest Loser," as NBC enjoyed a rare ratings victory. Weighing in 8% higher than the ratings for its normal 8-to-10-p.m. time slot, "Biggest Loser" delivered a 4.1/11 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic to give NBC a win for the two hours of prime time reflected in final Nielsen live-plus-same-day data. CBS (3.9/10) finished second, followed by ABC (3.3/8), Fox (1.6/4) and the CW (.7/2).

Official Nielsen numbers on total viewers indicate 40.4 million watched President Obama's press conference across 11 networks.
Official Nielsen numbers on total viewers indicate 40.4 million watched President Obama's press conference across 11 networks. Credit: Newscom
NBC was also the unofficial winner for the presidential press conference, with a 2.2/7, just above a 2.0/6 for both ABC and CBS and a 1.7/5 for Fox. But that's based on fast-affiliate data, as Nielsen does not report live-plus-same-day data for "unsustained" or noncommercial coverage. Official Nielsen numbers on total viewers indicate 40.4 million watched across 11 networks, which is about 81% of the 49.4 million who tuned in to President Barack Obama's first presidential press conference, on Feb. 9, and 77% of the 52.3 million who watched his address to a joint session of Congress (a rookie president's State of the Union Address).

While some might suggest Obama is overexposed after last week's interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" (17 million viewers) and his chat with Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show" (final data not yet available), the drop in viewers also may have been due to the topic of most of the questions: the recession, which may have made depressed viewers to tune out.

But many came back for the truncated two hours of entertainment prime time, as the Big Three shifted their schedules back an hour. CBS, which has a more august audience with statistically higher levels of voter participation, had higher viewership, too. It won in the broader measurement of households for Obama's presser and did decently demographically as well: "NCIS" (4.0/10) and "The Mentalist" (3.9/10) were 8% and 5% higher, respectively, than their usual original-episode averages.

And ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" results show (3.9/10) matched its average, while "Primetime: What Would You Do?" was up 13% to a 2.6/7.

The only network that didn't run the press conference was the CW, which may have benefitted, as "Reaper" increased 22% to a season high 1.1/3. But the CW squandered its success the next hour with yet another rerun of "90210," which added up to only a .4/1.

So overall, despite losing an hour, most of the networks gained -- except Fox, that is, which followed press conference with a "House" rerun (1.6/4) that indexed at only 30% of its 8 p.m. original-episode average. But Tuesday's loss may be Thursday's gain, as "American Idol," TV's top-rated show, shifts nights.

Wednesday: If you're a reality TV fan, tonight's your night -- at least at 8 p.m. Because of CBS's coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament on Thursday, "Survivor" moves to Wednesday and enters a game of survival all its own up against Fox's "American Idol," the CW's "America's Next Top Model" and NBC's "Chopping Block."
Thursday: Talk about baptism by fire: ABC's new sitcom, "In the Motherhood," premieres against CBS's NCAA Tournament coverage and Fox's "American Idol."

The reality TV traffic jam should be a true test for "Better off Ted," the new ABC sitcom that debuted with ratings as sketchy as the corrupt corporation the comedy lampoons.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see

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