According to preliminary Nielsen statistics, about 20 million people watched the first session of the House select committee examining the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol on broadcast and cable television on Thursday night.
On Thursday, all of the major broadcast television news networks canceled their regular programming to broadcast live coverage of the two-hour hearings.
ABC had the most viewers, with 4.8 million, followed by NBC and CBS with 3.5 million and 3.3 million, respectively. During the hearings, MSNBC drew a whopping 4.1 million people on cable, about four times the network’s regular weekday audience.
On Thursday night, Fox News Channel fell to second place on cable, averaging 3 million viewers from 8 to 10 p.m. With 2.6 million viewers, CNN came in third.
This week, Fox was chastised for not airing continuous live coverage of the hearings on its primary cable station. The network’s regularly scheduled opinion shows, hosted by Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, were not preempted.
Instead, Fox shifted live coverage of the proceedings to Fox Business Network, which drew 223,000 people from 8 to 10 p.m., according to Nielsen data. Fox also made its live coverage available to its affiliate stations around the country via various streaming platforms.
The early numbers are sure to rise, and they do not include those who watched the hearing live online via YouTubeTV or other platforms.
The audience of roughly 20 million is fewer than previous major prime-time political events, such as President Biden’s State of the Union Address in March, which drew 38 million people, but it is far larger than the average congressional hearing audience.
On a typical day during the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill in 2020, an estimated 9 million people watched former President Trump’s impeachment trial.
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