Kavanaugh Hearing Drew 20.4 Million Viewers to Six Big Networks

(Bloomberg) -- A nation riveted by the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford hearings on Thursday translated into big audiences for broadcast and cable TV networks.

Six major networks providing coverage of the hearings attracted a total of 20.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The viewership spanned ABC, CBS and NBC, and three 24-hour news channels: Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

Thursday’s hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee was a major national event, with broadcast and cable offering gavel-to-gavel coverage. In the morning, viewers took in the emotional testimony of Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when both were teens. The afternoon session featured the Supreme Court nominee’s fiery rebuttal.

The ratings are reminiscent of the Anita Hill testimony in 1991, when more than 20 million homes tuned in, though the media landscape was far different then. In June of this year, an estimated 19.5 million people watched coverage of ousted FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony.

Fox News said it dominated coverage of the latest hearings, with 5.7 million daytime viewers -- compared with 2.9 million for MSNBC and 2.5 million at CNN. MSNBC said separately that its coverage produced the network’s biggest ever daytime audience.

The hearing also delivered higher prime-time viewing for the 24-hour news channels, with Fox News reporting an audience of 5.5 million. MSNBC drew an estimated 3.18 million, while CNN attracted 1.9 million. Earlier, Fox reported the three networks saw a combined 77 percent increase in their 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. audiences, based on preliminary data.

The Fox network also had its first broadcast of “Thursday Night Football.” It generated an 8 percent ratings increase from a year earlier, when it was on CBS, according to the company.

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