8:40am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: Cable Viewership Swells Past 10 Million With George Zimmerman Verdict
As the cable news networks broke into programming on Saturday night to cover the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, viewers flocked to the television. Despite the late hour of the conclusion, which happened just after 10 p.m. ET, just north of 10.5 million viewers tuned in across networks.
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Fox News Channel edged out the other three in total viewers with 3.68 million, moving past CNN (3.4 million), HLN (2.2 million) and MSNBC (1.29 million). CNN had the lead in the targeted adults 25-54 demographic with 1.7 million viewers. They topped FNC (1.11 million), HLN (980,000) and MSNBC (510,000).
The relatively speedy trial, which culminated in a six-woman jury finding the Florida man not guilty in Trayvon Martin's 2012 shooting death, topped the recent verdict coverage of the Jodi Arias murder conviction. That grossed fewer than 7 million viewers when the verdict was read in May on a Wednesday afternoon.
Since the tail-end of primetime and late night on Saturdays isn't typically a big time for cable news networks, all four networks were up dramatically from year-to-date averages.
Between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET, the four networks grossed 7.5 million viewers, up from the average 1.8 million viewers. Fox maintained its viewership lead for the complete coverage, pulling in 2.71 million viewers over CNN (2.41 million), HLN (1.43 million) and MSNBC (929,000).
Boasting an exclusive interview with Zimmerman's brother, CNN continued to top in the demo with 1.24 million viewers in the time period, up from its year-to-date average of 135,000. MSNBC, which typically wins those hours in adults 25-54 with 261,000 viewers, was up the least with just 404,000.
The trial's end follows more than two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage on HLN and aggressive reporting from CNN. FNC and MSNBC, both of which curbed time devoted to the drawn-out Arias affair earlier in the year, had noticeably put more resources and time into the Zimmerman trial.