ABC News learns painful lesson: Trump's a TV ratings flop

Anyone surprised that ABC News' Sunday night hour-long prime-time special featuring Donald Trump was something of a ratings debacle has been badly misled by the Beltway press, which for years has been pushing a GOP-friendly myth that the president translates into huge ratings, and that Americans can't get enough of his antics. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as ABC's President Trump: 30 Hours confirmed over the weekend. The interview special came in third place among the three major networks on Sunday at 8 PM ET. Worse, the show produced just half the television audience that ABC's Celebrity Family Feud attracted in the same time slot one week earlier. The idea that Trump represents some sort of cultural phenomenon and that Americans flock to their TVs every time he appears in front of a camera is simply nonsense.

Why ABC thought Trump deserved an hour of prime-time exposure was never really explained in the special. Meaning, there was no news hook for the unusual programming event, which featured ABC's George Stephanopoulos shadowing Trump over the course of two days last week. (And … ?) Of course, Trump lied relentlessly throughout the televised interviews. So, no, not exactly compelling television.

We've seen Trump flop on TV before, over and over. Last year, when he sat down for a 60 Minutes interview, he garnered an audience one-half of the size that former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels landed when she was interviewed months earlier on the same show, where she detailed her sexual liaison with Trump and his campaign's efforts to buy her silence in 2016. Also note that the audience for Trump's 2017 60 Minutes interview was one-half the size of his 2016 60 Minutes interview, as nearly 10 million Americans who tuned in for Trump in 2016 tuned out in 2017.

In 2018, Trump’s first official State of the Union address drew a smaller audience than those of his two predecessors—Trump drew 40 million viewers, compared to the 48 million who tuned in to watch President Barack Obama's first State of the Union. It gets worse. When Trump sat down for a pre-Super Bowl interview in 2017, the audience was 12 million viewers. When Obama did the same thing in 2009, 22 million people watched. In 2017, when Trump turned his announcement of a Supreme Court nominee into a prime-time production, 33 million people watched. By contrast, Obama’s first prime-time event of his presidency was a press conference he held on the night of February 4, 2009, when nearly 50 million Americans watched.