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First televised impeachment hearing draws 13 million viewers

State Department official George Kent and acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor. Photo: Joshua Roberts/ Pool/Getty Images

The first televised impeachment hearing drew a sizable audience of about 13 million live viewers, according to early Nielsen ratings released by Fox News on Thursday.

Yes, but: Those numbers, while big, are smaller than the viewership of other major Trump-era political hearings. About 19.5 million people tuned in live to James Comey's testimony in June 2017, and about 20 million watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearing in Sept. 2018.

By the numbers: Fox News led the cable networks in total live viewers from 10 am to 4 pm with nearly 2.9 million viewers tuning into testimony from State Department official George Kent and acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor. MSNBC followed close behind with nearly 2.7 million viewers. CNN trailed in third place for the cable networks with around 1.8 million viewers.

  • All the major broadcast networks veered away from their regularly scheduled programs to air the hearing. ABC drew the most viewers with a little more than 2 million, and CBS followed with almost 2 million viewers. NBC had around 1.7 million viewers.
  • Many other people likely watched the testimony and questioning via streaming platforms, but to-date there is no way of measuring those live views precisely.

Our thought bubble: An impeachment hearing, one might think, would be a must-see event for Americans. But several factors may have resulted in fewer people watching this hearing than other Trump-era hearings.

  • It's also possible that Americans have started to tune out impeachment content as the saga has dragged on.
  • The release of the July 25 Ukraine call transcripts ahead of the hearings could have driven viewers to think that they would glean minimal new information from the hearings.
  • It also seems unlikely, at this point, that the hearings will sway the minds of loyal Senate Republicans. Some Americans might have made the hearings a low priority, given that the Senate is expected to clear the president.

What's next: The second televised hearing will occur Friday morning.