Jan. 6 Committee Hearing Draws 20 Million Viewers on First Primetime Night

12 networks aired live coverage of the hearing

jan. 6 hearing day 1
Getty Images

About 20 million people tuned in to watch coverage of the U.S. House special committee hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection on Thursday, according to official live + same day data from Nielsen.

That tally included viewers across 12 networks that aired live coverage of the hearing from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET — ABC, CBS, NBC, NBC LX, PBS, CNBC, CNN, CNNe, FOX Business Network, MSNBC, Newsmax and NewsNation.

ABC outperformed all other major broadcast networks, as well as the cable news channels, drawing an audience of 5.1 million. MSNBC came in second in all of TV (and first among cable news), with 4.3 million viewers.

Of the cable news networks, Fox News Channel — despite not airing live coverage of the hearing in favor its regular shows from non-news hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson — was second, with 3.1 million people tuning in during the time period. CNN had 2.7 million. Fox News relegated live coverage of Thursday’s hearing to Fox Business Network, which delivered 223,000 viewers

As for the major broadcast networks, NBC drew 3.7 million viewers while CBS had 3.5 million.

All the cable news networks saw a hefty boost in viewership from the hearing, compared to last Thursday’s regular primetime fare. MSNBC more than quadrupled its numbers, after securing an average of 983,000 total viewers on June 2.

CNN was up from 605,000 total average viewers during primetime last week and Fox News Channel, which is consistently the most-watched cable news network, especially for major national events, was up about 1 million viewers from an average of 2.3 million last week. FBN’s 223,000 primetime viewers put them at a 108% increase as compared to June 2.

The boost in viewership for the cable news channels is fairly typical for a major national newws event. MSNBC’s viewership during the congressional hearings was about on par with its viewership during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address earlier this year. CNN’s was slightly lower, having netted 4.8 million for the SOTU.

On the other hand, while FNC still benefitted from an increase in viewership, it wasn’t nearly as high as it as been in the past, when the network did opt to air live coverage of a national event. During the State of the Union, FNC dominated with 7.2 million viewers — the most across all of television. On election night 2020, FNC drew a whopping 13.6 million viewers in primetime (compared to 9.1 million for CNN and 7.3 million for MSNBC).

As for the broadcast networks, they all fared about as well as they do during any other major national events. Fox and The CW were the only broadcast networks that opted not to air the congressional proceedings.

Fox averaged a 0.19 rating in the broadcast networks’ key 18-49 demographic, as well as 997,000 total viewers. A rerun of “MasterChef” aired at 8 p.m. to a 0.18 demo rating and 959,000 total viewers. A re-airing of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” was next at 9, with a 0.2 demo rating and 1 million total viewers.

It looks like Fox might have benefited from also airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings, considering its viewership took a significant hit from the 2 million viewers it secured the previous Thursday (when the network also aired reruns of “MasterChef”). The network did air the State of the Union and live coverage on election night in 2020, securing 1.9 million viewers and 3.3 million viewers on those respective nights.

The CW drew an average 0.11 demo rating and 672,000 total viewers during primetime. “Walker” had a 0.12 demo rating and 895,000 total viewers at 8 p.m. At 9, the penultimate episode of “Legacies” took home a 0.1 demo rating and 449,000 total viewers.