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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Opening Day of the impeachment hearings hardly hit blockbuster status, generating middling viewer interest compared with other Trump-era political hearings.

Why it matters: Democrats are banking on the public spectacle of the hearings to shift more independents and Republicans in favor of impeaching President Trump — but new data about Wednesday's hearing shows the difficulty in capturing the attention of a nation that's developed a higher tolerance for permanent political drama under the current president.

By the numbers:

  • Day One's 13 million live TV viewers fell well shy of James Comey's testimony in June 2017 (19.5m); the Christine Blasey Ford/Brett Kavanaugh hearing from September 2018 (20m); and the Michael Cohen hearing in February (16m).
  • The impeachment hearing, which featured some newsy testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent, generated 7 million social media interactions on Wednesday, according to data from social analytics company NewsWhip.
  • That's higher than the 6 million for Comey on the day of his testimony but shy of the 8 million for Robert Mueller's testimony -- and way below the 18 million for the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing.

Yes, but: While the other events were confined to a single day of viewing, the public impeachment hearings will play out over many days. It's unclear whether that could scatter viewership, or build interest over time.

Between the lines: A number of factors may be working to suppress viewer interest.

  • The outcome of the impeachment saga appears predictable and predetermined at this point: The Democratic-led House will impeach and the Republican-led Senate will acquit.
  • The testimonies are largely known ahead of time: Witnesses have already been deposed during hours-long questioning and the transcripts released. The information that comes out in public isn't expected to change much. The main difference is that it's being televised rather than playing out behind closed doors.
  • Media echo chambers mean there are few facts and narratives agreed upon by the left and the right.
  • The witnesses weren't household names until the last month, making them unfamiliar — and less interesting — to many Americans.
  • Americans could be experiencing hearing fatigue after sitting through the day-long slog for other high-profile Trump-era testimonies.
  • The daytime airing prevents many potential viewers from being able to tune in.

The bottom line: While public hearings may be Democrats' best chance to shift the status quo, 81% of voters say their opinions about impeachment already are mostly set.

Go deeper

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with first lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.