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TV Ratings: Zimmerman Juror and Witness Interviews Prompt CNN Surge

CNN bests Fox News in the 25-54 demographic; Piers Morgan scores highest demo number ever with town hall that included a candid interview with witness Rachel Jeantel.

Piers Morgan Rachel Jeantel - H 2013
Rachel Jeantel on "Piers Morgan Live"

Intense interest and continued fallout from the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial boosted cable news on Monday night. But it was CNN that posted the biggest gains among the viewers that matter most to advertisers; those in the 25-54 demographic. And with one of the jurors on Anderson Cooper 360 and star (and controversial) witness Rachel Jeantel on Piers Morgan Live, CNN bested perennial cable news leader Fox News Channel in the demo from 8-11 p.m. 

At 8 p.m. Anderson Copper 360 was within 4,000 demo viewers of Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor (474,000 viewers compared to 478,000 for O’Reilly). For AC360, that’s a 131 percent bump compared to the previous Monday; O’Reilly was up 3 percent while MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes was up 24 percent with 202,000 demo viewers.

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The unidentified female juror told Cooper Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place, but just got displaced with vandalism in the neighborhoods and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done.” But she quickly became the target of intense criticism after announcing Monday that she would write a book about the trial. By by the end of the day, she had scrapped those plans.

At 9 p.m. Piers Morgan Live easily bested Fox News’ Hannity (678,000 demo viewers compared to 424,000 for Hannity). Sean Hannity had Zimmerman’s defense team on his program while Morgan led a town hall featuring prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel, the Florida teen who was speaking to Trayvon Marin on the phone when the confrontation with Zimmerman began. Jeantel's testimony was widely criticized for being defensive and inconsistent and many pundits asserted that she harmed the prosecution's case. For Morgan, last night’s show marks a gain of nearly 200 percent compared to last Monday and equates to the highest demo number ever for an interview program, exceeding election night and presidential debate coverage.

STORY: Cable Viewership Swells Past 10 Million With George Zimmerman Verdict

Jeantel said she believed the confrontation was "racial," a narrative the Zimmerman and his defense team has steadily denied. “Let's be honest. Racial. If he were white, if Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, what would happen?” she asked Morgan.

Over on Hannity, Zimmerman attorney’s Don West and Mark O’Mara were making the opposite argument. 

“I have no idea why [the prosecution] took an absolutely obvious self-defense case and turned it into a case that, though they thought would do some good in some strange way, ended up dividing the country," O'Mara told host Sean Hannity. "It’s going to take years to get past the Zimmerman verdict when it was a just verdict.”

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show pulled in 263,000 viewers in the demo.

And at 10 p.m., AC360 out-rated On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (576,000 demo viewers compared to 344,000 for Van Susteren). MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell pulled in 235,000 demo viewers.

Fox News’ primetime lineup was No. 1 among total viewers.