(The Hill) – Nearly 20 million people watched Thursday night’s first hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol across broadcast and cable news, according to preliminary ratings figures from Nielsen.
Each of the major broadcast television news networks preempted their regularly scheduled programming on Thursday to show continuous live coverage of the two-hour hearings.
ABC took the largest haul of viewers, earning 4.8 million of them, while NBC and CBS carried 3.5 million and 3.3 million, respectively.
On cable, MSNBC pulled in a whopping 4.1 million viewers during the hearings, nearly four times what the network averages on a typical weeknight.
Usually dominant Fox News Channel came in second place on cable on Thursday night, averaging 3 million viewers from 8 to 10 p.m. CNN came in third place with 2.6 million.
Fox took criticism this week for its decision not to air continuous live coverage of the hearings on its main cable channel. The network did not preempt its regularly scheduled opinion shows, featuring hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
Instead, Fox relegated live coverage of the hearings to Fox Business Network, which ratings figures show pulled in 223,000 viewers from 8 to 10 p.m. Fox also provided its live coverage on various streaming platforms and made it available to its affiliate stations across the country.
Friday’s preliminary figures are likely to grow and do not include viewers who watched the hearing via streaming service online through YouTubeTV or other platforms.
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The total of nearly 20 million is smaller than other large prime-time political events like President Biden’s State of the Union Address in March, which pulled in 38 million viewers, but is much larger than the audience for a typical congressional hearing.
A reported 9 million people watched former President Trump’s impeachment trial in 2020 on a typical day during those proceedings on Capitol Hill.