Mueller Report Coverage Draws 11 Million Viewers, Fox News Leads

Attorney General William Barr at the Mueller Report Press Conference on April 18, 2019 - H Getty 2019
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference drove a big day for TV news — albeit not as big as coverage of some of the events connected to the investigation.

Special coverage of the report Thursday morning averaged about 10.7 million viewers across the three big cable news networks — Fox News, MSNBC and CNN — and broadcast nets ABC and CBS, according to preliminary Nielsen figures. (NBC's numbers weren't available as of publication time.)

Fox News led the pack with an average of 2.78 million viewers from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. CBS, which cut off its coverage at noon, drew 2.54 million, followed by ABC with 2.22 million. MSNBC averaged a little more than 2 million viewers and CNN, 1.17 million.

The broadcast networks topped the key news demographic of adults 25-54, with ABC (493,000 viewers in that age group) and CBS (471,000) beating the 441,000 for Fox News. Fox's demo audience led its cable competition by a sizable margin, as MSNBC had 307,000 adults 25-54 and CNN 286,000.

The cable news networks were all above average during their special reports, but the Mueller report's release was not as big a TV draw as some other recent events that drew blanket coverage — including a couple that figured into the special counsel's investigation.

Coverage of former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's congressional testimony in February, for instance, averaged 16 million viewers. Back in 2017, former FBI director James Comey's testimony about his firing drew 19.5 million.

Even when NBC is added in, the Mueller report coverage isn't likely to reach those heights.

All three cable news nets had better-than-usual nights in primetime Thursday. Fox News averaged 3.23 million viewers, up 6 percent from Wednesday. MSNBC's 2.57 million viewers — its biggest primetime audience in a month — was a 13 percent gain on the previous night, and CNN was up 29 percent at 1.11 million.