More than 19 million people watched the January 6 audience and the first rankings show
An audience of at least 20 million watched the first prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee’s inquiry into the Jan. 6 attack on Thursday night, according to Nielsen.
By scheduling a congressional hearing from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., committee members and Democrats hoped to bring the case to as wide an audience as possible. ABC, CBS and NBC moved their prime time lineup up and into special feature mode to cover it live.
Although Thursday night’s figure pales next to the presidential debates (63 million vs. 73 million) or this year’s State of the Union address (38 million), it’s still far larger than the audience watching. normally a congressional hearing during the day. And it’s in the stadium for televised events like a big “Sunday Night Football” game or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
ABC attracted the largest audience, with 5.2 million viewers. NBC and CBS each had an audience of over three million. MSNBC averaged over four million, and CNN drew 2.7 million. (The 20 million figure didn’t yet include PBS, so the total audience was likely a bit larger.)
Viewers who tuned in mostly stayed through the entire Congressional proceedings. Viewership on each of the broadcast networks held steady between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to Nielsen half-hour blackouts.
As the broadcast networks forfeited their prime-time entertainment offerings and CNN and MSNBC ensured full audience coverage, there was an obvious outlier among the cable news networks. Fox News, the most-watched cable network, did not broadcast the hearings live, sticking to its usual prime-time lineup.
Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity dedicated their shows to January 6, and the two had the audience live on a split screen – but the Congress feed was cut while the hosts spent two hours to minimize committee effort.
“It’s bothered, and we’re not playing along,” Mr. Carlson said of the hearings. “This is the only hour on an American news channel that won’t broadcast their propaganda live. They’re lying and we’re not going to help them. What we’ll do instead is try to tell you the truth.
Fox’s counter-programming efforts drew an average viewership of three million, which is about right.
Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum covered the audiences live, but did so on Fox Business, which draws far fewer viewers. About 223,000 people watched the hearings on Fox Business. When Mr. Baier and Ms. MacCallum appeared on Fox News for a two-hour special at 11 p.m., an average of 1.3 million people watched.
Local Fox Broadcast Network affiliates had the option of picking up the Fox Business feed, but were not required to do so. Some major local Fox stations, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, picked up the wire while others aired regular entertainment programming. The Fox station in the New York market, for example, chose to air episodes of “MasterChef Junior” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”.