Jun 10, 2022 - Economy

20 million people watched first day of Jan. 6 hearings on TV

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Roughly 20 million people watched live coverage of the first Jan. 6 House committee hearing on television in primetime Thursday evening, per Nielsen.

Why it matters: More people tuned into the hearing than on the first day of former President Trump's first impeachment trial in November 2019 (13 million) and the first day of his second impeachment trial in February 2021 (11 million).

Details: While coverage varied by network, Nielsen said the hearing aired across 12 networks in total from 8 to 10pm ET.

  • ABC drew the largest audience by far, with 5.2 million viewers, followed by MSNBC (4.3 million), NBC (3.7 million), CBS (3.5 million), CNN (2.6 million) and Fox Business Network (223,000).
  • Outside of the main cable and broadcast networks, the event was also aired on NBC LX, PBS, CNBC, CNNe, Newsmax and NewsNation. 
  • The figures from Nielsen included viewership from TVs outside of living rooms in places like bars and restaurants, as well as connected TVs. But they didn't include digital viewership or ratings from PBS.

Be smart: Fox News did not air the hearing on Fox News Channel, and instead kept its primetime lineup during the 8-10 pm ET hours. But it did air the hearing on Fox Business Network and across local affiliates.

Yes, but: Fox New Channel still drew 3.1 million viewers during that time period, a clear indication that a notable portion of the country wasn't interested in what the hearings could potentially uncover.

The big picture: Political hearings became a point of fascination in the Trump years, putting the nation's growing polarization on full display.

  • James Comey's testimony in June 2017 drew 19.5 million viewers. Brett Kavanaugh's hearing in September 2018 drew 20 million.

What's next: Several networks, including ABC and NBC, are planning to cover the second day of the hearings next Monday morning live.

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