Capitol Insurrection Drives Big Audience to TV News

Capitol Insurrection Drives Big Audience to TV News

Capitol Hill Rioters

Jon Cherry/Getty Images
The storming of the U.S. Capitol drove a big audience to major TV news outlets on Wednesday.

Nearly 29 million people watched afternoon coverage of the riot on the Capitol grounds and in the halls of Congress as members gathered to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Continuing coverage in primetime, which eventually shifted back to the Electoral College certification, drew upward of 33 million viewers on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

CNN had the most watched day in its 40-year history, averaging 5.22 million viewers for the 24-hour period. It also led all networks both in the four-hour block of riot coverage in the afternoon and in primetime.

From 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. ET, CNN averaged nearly 9 million total viewers as it and other outlets offered continuous coverage of the storming of the Capitol. That was well ahead of Fox News (5.74 million), MSNBC (5.59 million), ABC (4.85 million) and CBS (3.7 million). Audience figures for NBC’s afternoon block weren’t immediately available but likely will push the six-network tally well above 30 million.

In primetime, CNN remained No. 1 across all of Nielsen-measured television with 8.2 million viewers. MSNBC moved up to second with 7.38 million viewers, followed by NBC (5.77 million), ABC (4.88 million), Fox News (4.58 million) and CBS (2.57 million). All but CBS, which had special coverage from 9 to 11 p.m. ET, devoted all of primetime to news.

All Nielsen figures are based on time zone adjusted fast nationals. Viewer numbers will likely increase some in the final same-day ratings, which weren’t available at publication time.

CNN’s digital platforms drew more unique visitors Wednesday (72 million worldwide) than they did on Election Day, per the network. NBC News Digital says it had its second-best day ever in terms of video views, and that users streamed 10 million hours’ worth of video on NBC News Now.

Fox News, meanwhile, had its largest total day audience (3 million) since Nov. 5, and its digital platforms saw the most video streams ever, outside of the week after the 2020 election.