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More Than 19 Million Watched Jan. 6 Hearing, Early Tally Shows

More than 19 million people watched the first prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack Thursday night, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen.

That number will grow in the coming hours, as more networks are counted and looked at outside of the home. Nielsen is expected to have a final viewing figure on Friday evening.

By scheduling a congressional hearing from 8 to 10 p.m., committee members and Democrats hoped to bring the matter to as wide an audience as possible. ABC, CBS and NBC got ahead of their primetime programming and went into special reports mode to cover it live.

Even though the figure pales next to presidential debates (63 million to 73 million) or this year’s State of the Union address (38 million) on Thursday night, it’s still much larger than the audience that would normally watch a congressional hearing during the day. . And it’s on the sidelines of televised events like a big “Sunday Night Football” game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

ABC attracted the largest audience of the broadcasting networks with 4.8 million viewers. NBC and CBS each had audiences of over three million. MSNBC had an average audience of 4.2 million and CNN drew 2.6 million.

Viewers who tuned in tended to hang around the entire congressional process. Viewership on each of the broadcast networks remained stable between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to Nielsen half-hour outages.

As the broadcast networks gave up their prime-time entertainment offerings and CNN and MSNBC gave the wall-to-wall hearings, there was a notable outlier with the cable news networks. Fox News, the most-watched network in cable, did not bring the hearings live, but stuck to its usual prime-time lineup.

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity dedicated their shows to Jan. 6, and both had the hearing live in split screen — but Congress’ feed was muted as the hosts spent two hours belittling the efforts of the committee.

“It’s insane and we’re not playing along,” Mr Carlson said of the hearings. “This is the only hour on a US news channel that will not broadcast their propaganda live. They’re lying and we’re not going to help them. What we will do instead is try to tell you the truth.”

Fox’s attempts at counterprogramming drew an average audience of three million, which is just about normal.

Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum did live coverage of the hearings, but did so on Fox Business, which draws far fewer viewers. About 223,000 people watched the Fox Business hearings. When Mr. Baier and Mrs. MacCallum switched to Fox News at 11 p.m. for a two-hour special, it averaged 1.3 million viewers.

Local affiliates of the Fox broadcast network had the option to retrieve the Fox Business feed, but were not required to do so. Some major Fox affiliates, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, took the feed, while others broadcast regularly scheduled programs without scripts. For example, the Fox station in the New York market chose to run episodes of “MasterChef Junior” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.”

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