Fox News rules the TV ratings on day one of the open impeachment hearings in the House

An average of 13.9 million viewers watched the opening day of the House impeachment hearings on Wednesday on the ten television networks that broadcast the Democrats' show trial live, according to Nielsen Media Research.  The big news is that the Fox News channel, generally perceived as the network most friendly to President Trump, not only beat its cable news competition, but also came in first in total viewers even among all of the alphabet broadcast TV networks that pre-empted their regular daytime programming.

At one time, that kind of ratings victory for a cable channel would have been unthinkable.  It's a measure of the ongoing decline into irrelevance of the country's seventy-plus-year-old broadcast TV networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — which a variety of studies confirm are less trusted than ever by the American people, especially conservatives.

Meanwhile, representatives of Fox News itself, now in its 24th year, are taking a well deserved victory lap for this achievement.  It comes in the midst of ongoing attacks from the channel's direct competition (CNN and MSNBC); the entire MSM (including the New York Times in a page one story attacking FNC contributor John Solomon on Wednesday); left-wing advocacy groups like Media Matters for America; and a long line of Democrats, most of whom decline to appear on the channel.

Wednesday's ratings were pretty much a blow-out with the exception of the so-called preferred demographic — viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, whom advertisers supposedly prefer.  Using that measure, ABC beat Fox News by 54,000 viewers: 496,000 to 442,000 for FNC.  There is no question, however, that Fox News was #1 by far in the number of total viewers all day, with an average of 2,885,000 viewers during the six hours of hearings.  The top six channels came in as follows according to Nielsen Media Research (accessible source: TVNewser article published Nov. 14 — free registration required)

Fox News 2,885,000 viewers
MSNBC 2,703,000
ABC 2,008,000
CBS 1,970,000
CNN 1,856,000
NBC 1,676,000

Significantly, the additional number of Americans who streamed the hearings on the internet is not readily available.  Unlike television ratings, which have been measured ever more closely since the dawn of commercial TV broadcasting in the late 1940s, there currently exists no absolutely reliable metric to measure or compare competing online live streams for an event like Wednesday's hearings.

According to a news release emailed to journalists by Fox News Media Relations (some of the content of which is echoed in an article at Fox News dot com by Brian Flood), citing Early Nielsen Media Research:

Additionally, in primetime [Wednesday], FNC was the most-watched cable news network from 8-11PM/ET with nearly 4 million viewers and 635,000 viewers in the 25-54 younger demo, sweeping CNN and MSNBC across both categories. Hannity was the number one rated show in all of cable news last night [Wednesday] with 4.4 million total viewers and 711,000 A25-54 while Tucker Carlson Tonight ranked second with 3,966,000 total viewers (648,000 A25-54).

Fox News's emailed press release Thursday did claim some credit for its online activities:

According to Adobe Analytics, Fox News Digital (Web + Mobile App) outperformed both the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearing days in terms of Unique Devices, and delivered a 16 percent increase over the 2019 to date average. Additionally, the Fox New Go Authenticated Live Stream on November 13th had its highest day of Media Initiates and Unique Devices since Midterm Election post-day coverage (11/7/18).  In the news competitive set, FOX News remained the number one most engaged news brand on social media on 11/13/19 (Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram combined). Additionally, FNC's concurrent streams peaked at close to 100K concurrent livestreams.

The ups and downs of TV ratings, especially among the three major cable news channels (FNC, MSNBC, and CNN), are often cited by political analysts as indicative of the standing of President Trump and his critics.  I have written about this phenomenon myself.  For example, when Trump's fortunes are on the upswing, a perception is that his supporters flock to Fox News for more objective coverage of his achievements, which CNN and MSNBC have shown themselves to be incapable of reporting.  The opposite is also true: when the Mueller Report was set for release last spring, and with it expectations of a smoking gun to finish off the Trump presidency, MSNBC's (and to a lesser extent, CNN's) numbers registered a brief bump as viewers on the left tuned in there.

In light of Wednesday's ratings, a new approach seems to be called for with Trump-friendly — or at least more fair and balanced — Fox News ahead of not only its two primary cable news competitors, but the entire broadcast TV landscape.

Screen grab from Tucker Carlson Tonight, November 14, 2019.
“We want to thank especially the Murdoch family.”
–Tucker Carlson, Fox News Channel, Nov. 14, 2019

And this related, but not insignificant, footnote: On his program Thursday evening, Tucker Carlson mentioned that it was the third anniversary since the premiere of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday, November 14, 2016 – six days after the election of Donald Trump. Three years later now, Carlson has helped to solidify Fox News' dominance in the prime-time cable TV news competition.

After playing a clip last night from his first prime time program three years ago, in which he articulated the purpose of his show, Carlson said [emphasis added]:

"People in power tend to lie." We'll save that tape. It will be fresh and true ten years from now. In fact, it will always be true. Human nature doesn't change. We've been honored to cover that unchanging story for the past three years here at Fox. What a great and fascinating time that's been. Thanks for hanging in there with us through it all. If it weren't for you, we'd be long gone – trust me.

We want to thank Fox and especially the Murdoch family for their unwavering support of this show day after day. God bless them.

Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications.  Peter's website is  His new YouTube channel is here. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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