CNN, MSNBC and Fox News See Ratings Surge During Trump Trial Coverage | Charts

CNN and MSNBC both saw massive growth in daytime segment viewership when Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen took the stand

Donald Trump in court
Donald Trump (Credit: Getty Images)

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Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York led to a ratings surge for all three cable news networks, with CNN and MSNBC seeing outsized growth year-over-year in daytime segments during Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen’s blockbuster testimonies. 

The salacious trial of the former president has captivated cable news viewers, even as the networks themselves are unable to capture video footage from inside the courtroom. The networks have leaned into the surging interest in the historic criminal case, airing regular special coverage in an effort to capture the essence of the trial without full access. And despite criticism from some circles that they’re going overboard, the networks are seeing significant year-over-year gains as a result.

From April 15 to May 16 — the period in which a majority of the trial took place — in full-day ratings, Fox News continued its ratings dominance, coming in first with 1.46 million average total viewers, a 14% increase year-over-year, scoring 169,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen figures.

MSNBC came in second notching 1.06 million average viewers, a 21% uptick year-over-year, with 111,000 viewers in the 25-54 age range.

CNN came in third with 563,000 total viewers, however, this was a 27% increase for the network compared to the prior year. CNN also nabbed 98,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. 

Chris Smith/TheWrap

In primetime for the same time period, Fox News topped cable news ratings again, scoring 2.34 million total viewers, a 28% increase year-over-year, with 244,000 viewers in the 25-54 age range.

MSNBC came in second with 1.59 million total viewers, an 11% increase from the prior year, and 154,000 viewers in the key demographic.

CNN scored 634,000 total viewers in primetime, a 12% uptick year-over-year, with 119,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo. 

CNN’s daytime surge

However, the more crucial ratings story from the trial is centered around cable news’ daytime programming, which is when the court is actually in session for Trump’s criminal hush-money charges, with ratings trends showing significant viewership interest in real-time updates from the courtroom (or as close as one can get without cameras permitted).

While Fox News continued to beat out the cable news competition in both total viewership and the key demographic, CNN and MSNBC scored monumental ratings gains year-over-year during daytime coverage.

CNN continued to lag behind MSNBC in total viewership, but the network topped its key 25-54 demographic numbers nearly every day. And while CNN’s primetime lineup struggled during the week of May 13-19 — CNN’s lowest-rated week since 1991, according to Nielsen — it made up the difference by notching significant growth in daytime programming with its primetime anchors out in full force for special coverage, regularly providing relevant updates from inside the courtroom and breakdowns with expert legal analysts.

During the daytime segment (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET) of May 7 — Stormy Daniels’ first day taking the stand — Fox News notched 1.67 million average total viewers, a 26% increase year-over-year, with 166,000 viewers in the 25-54 age range. MSNBC came in second with 1.39 million total viewers, a 46% uptick from the year prior, with 133,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. CNN, however, had the biggest gains of the day, scoring 1.01 million total viewers in daytime, a whopping 72% increase year-over-year, with 137,000 viewers in the 25-54 age range, beating out MSNBC in the demographic.

Chris Smith/TheWrap

On May 9, Daniels’ second day of testimony, Fox News nabbed 1.65 million average total viewers, a 26% increase year-over-year, with 155,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. MSNBC scored 1.23 million viewers, a 46% uptick from the year prior, with 112,000 in the key demo. CNN saw 870,000 total daytime viewers, a 58% increase year-over-year. The network again topped MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic, notching 122,000 viewers. 

Cohen’s intensely anticipated testimony allowed for even further gains for CNN and MSNBC in daytime segments. 

During the daytime segment of May 13 — Cohen’s first day taking the stand — Fox News saw 1.66 million average total viewers, a 30% uptick from the year prior, with 172,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. MSNBC nabbed 1.38 million total daytime viewers, a 71% increase year-over-year, with 120,000 in the demo. CNN also topped 1 million daytime viewers with 1.03 million total, a massive 113% increase year-over-year. The network also topped MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic with 167,000 viewers. 

Chris Smith/TheWrap

For Cohen’s second day on the stand, May 14, Fox News scored 1.75 million average total viewers, a 33% uptick compared to the prior year, and 187,000 viewers in the key demographic. MSNBC notched 1.30 million total viewers, a 68% uptick year-over-year, with 114,000 in the 25-54 age range. CNN nabbed 893,000 total daytime viewers, an 84% increase year-over-year. The network topped MSNBC in the demo again with 119,000 viewers in the 25-54 range. 

As Cohen’s testimony continued, cable news ratings dropped slightly from the buzzy first day, but gains year-over-year continued. 

On May 16, Fox News notched 1.70 million total average daytime viewers, a 30% increase year-over-year, with 148,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. MSNBC scored 1.18 million total viewers, a 57% uptick compared to the prior year, with 115,000 viewers in the key demo. CNN notched 789,000 total daytime viewers, a 79% increase year-over-year. The network topped MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic with 130,000 viewers. 

And the show’s not over — the trial is due to wrap up as closing arguments begin next week after the Memorial Day holiday.

Emily Smith contributed reporting to this story.

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