Doing the math on our division
By Tom Jones
The Poynter Institute
Where are Americans going for their impeachment coverage? The answer is Fox News. Kind of. Let me explain.
When early Nielsen TV ratings came out for last Tuesday’s opening day of the Senate impeachment trial, Fox News was the winner. By a lot.
Early Nielsen research showed that from 12:30-5 p.m. Eastern, Fox News had 2.654 million viewers. That easily outdistanced CBS (1.94 million), MSNBC (1.909 million), ABC (1.6 million), NBC (1.4 million) and CNN (1.4 million).
Fox News also won the much-coveted demo of 24- to 54-year-olds — it had 394,000 viewers in that demographic, the next closest being ABC (385,000) and CNN (383,000).
That would suggest that impeachment is actually good for business over at Fox News, right? That’s probably a tad surprising when you consider that Fox News mostly attracts viewers who are more conservative and, generally speaking, supporters of President Donald Trump. So what gives?
Well, let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers. Yes, more people watched Fox News’ opening-day coverage than any other network. However, another way to look at it is this: while 2.6 million were watching Fox News, another 8.249 million were watching other channels. And that does not include those who might have been watching on PBS or C-SPAN2, which was not measured by Nielsen. It also doesn’t count streaming services or the coverage on websites such as The New York Times, Washington Post or CNN.com. It also doesn’t count Fox News’ streaming coverage.
It’s also interesting to note that NBC and MSNBC, which share many journalists, had a combined audience of 3.3 million — more than watched Fox News. Here are more numbers to consider. These suggest (as if we didn’t already know) how divided the country is over impeachment and this president.
In prime time, the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) went back to regular programming. That meant most viewers interested in impeachment coverage turned to the three big cable news networks — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Again, Fox News dominated with 3.5 million viewers during the 8-11 p.m. Eastern slot. That outdistanced MSNBC’s 2.5 million and CNN’s 1.5 million.
But again, if you add up the numbers, 3.5 million were watching Fox News, while 4 million were watching MSNBC and CNN. Pretty much a split.
Viewership will ebb and flow. But if we can draw anything from these very early first-day numbers, it’s that viewership is not overwhelming. I mean, nearly 15 million watched the recent “Jeopardy’s Greatest of All Time” tournament and somewhere around 100 million are going to watch the Super Bowl Feb. 2.