Cable News Makes Most of D.C. Chaos

Cable News Boost from Mob Attack
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

The recent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol shocked the world, but it also captured everyone’s attention. Cable news networks saw tremendous increases in viewership in the U.S., with CNN setting a viewing record. With most broadcast networks adding special coverage of the events, there were a total of 36.3 million Americans watching news coverage at 8 p.m.

There are several key takeaways from the reported viewing figures:

The primetime audiences for CNN and MSNBC were bigger than those tuned into the news coverage on the broadcast networks, which opted to run news specials (ABC, CBS and NBC). Fox News came ahead of ABC and CBS.

Fox News viewership begins to trail off at a steeper rate from the peak coverage — after 4 p.m. — than for non-conservative outlets.

CBS paid a price for not running a news special prior to 9 p.m., with substantially lower viewership than ABC and NBC.

Newsmax ranked in the top 150 cable shows for the day from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with 1 million viewers per hour from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the mob was at its worst.

When compared with the prior year, CNN and MSNBC saw tremendous lift across all demos, with some younger demos seeing quadruple-digit increases. Fox News saw increases across 18-34 and 35-49s but not to the same degree.

Of note is that “Hannity” was actually down year-over-year for 50+ viewers, albeit by a very slight -1%. With conservative outlets like Newsmax TV and One America News snapping at the heels of Fox News for those with stronger conservative views, this could be the impact of competition for right-leaning news consumers.

Another way to analyze news network performance is by the total audience viewing live or within 24 hours of the content airing. CNN saw the greatest lift in total audience, with over 5.5x more people watching in each of the primetime hours. MSNBC also saw substantial increases year-over-year, with the greatest increase seen between 8 and 9 p.m. Fox News saw increases for each primetime hour versus 2020, but it should be noted that the growth rates for “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle” were not large.