UPDATED Aug. 24, 10:51 a.m. PT: Broadcast news drew approximately 16.4 million viewers during eclipse coverage on Monday.
Cable and broadcast news coverage of the total solar eclipse on Monday drew an estimated 21.5 million total viewers, according to Nielsen data.
The eclipse was at its peak from approximately 2-2:45 p.m. ET for most of the country. From 1-3 p.m. ET, Fox News led cable news coverage of the historic event in total viewers with 2.13 million, but was second in the key adults 25-54 demographic with 467,000 viewers. CNN was second in total viewers with 1.7 million, but first in the key demo with 567,000. MSNBC was third overall with 1.22 million viewers and 248,000 in the demo.
On broadcast, ABC News was first with 7.9 million total viewers and 2.08 million in the key demo. CBS was second with 5.97 million viewers and 1.57 million in the demo. NBC was third with 2.59 million viewers and 778,000 in the demo.
The eclipse was the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since 1917. It was also the first to be visible from the mainland since 1979. A total blackout of the sun was visible for a few minutes along the 73-mile-wide “path of totality” that runs along a diagonal stretch of the country, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina.
“It’s an artistic moment in some ways — it’s a moment that is extremely rare for a human to witness and it’s happening across our country,” Jack Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said prior to the eclipse. “We’ve been talking about it for years in the astronomical community that 2017 was going to be huge. It’s hard to properly describe how magical standing in the shadow of the moon can be. It’s not surprising to me that people are feeling so excited and so inspired that we have the ability to participate in this.”