Cable news viewers tune out Obama

President Obama’s State of the Union drew just over 8 million viewers on the major cable news networks, suggesting Tuesday's address may have been one of the least-watched in more than a decade.

According to preliminary Nielsen ratings obtained by Variety, Fox News led the cable networks with nearly 3.5 million viewers. CNN placed second with just over 2.5 million, while MSNBC rounded out the trio with just under 2 million Americans tuning in.

The combined 8 million viewers in the preliminary ratings is down 1.1 million from last year and 2.35 million from 2013.

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The cable totals do not necessarily indicate that fewer people watched the speech. Nielsen has not reported total cumulative numbers that include the broadcast and other cable networks. Last year's address drew 33.3 million viewers overall over 14 television networks.

And the White House placed an emphasis this year on getting supporters to tune in online, offering an interactive two-screen webcast with policy details and social media on its website.

"While traditional television viewership has declined, the impact and importance of the State of the Union address has grown," senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in a blog post on Wednesday. "It’s changed from a live television event to a multimedia extravaganza. Millions of Americans will consume the address later via on-demand video and their social media feeds."

The White House even released an copy of the president's prepared remarks on the website Medium before the president began delivering the speech.

“By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech," the administration said in a statement.