Malaysia Airlines Crash Coverage Catapults Cable News Ratings

Malaysia Flight 777 Amateur Footage - H 2014

Both cable and broadcast news outlets were scrambling to cover the downed Malaysia Airlines flight on Thursday morning. Breaking in during the morning and staying wall-to-wall for much of the day, ratings climbed especially high during primetime.

Across the three big cable news networks — Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN — an average 5.13 million viewers were watching during primetime. (For a basic comparison, that's up 30 percent from the night before and a whopping 50 percent from the previous Thursday.)

VIDEO Morning News Covers the Malaysia Airlines Crash

FNC led primetime with just over 3 million total viewers — 570,000 of them in the targeted adults 25-54 demographic. Those numbers marked jumps of a respective 46 and 71 percent from the same night a year ago. CNN, rising to the No. 2 slot ahead of MSNBC, also saw substantial growth. The network was up 38 percent to 1.2 million viewers — 488,000 of them in the key news demo. MSNBC trailed with 826,000 viewers and 184,000 adults 25-54.

The very early hour of the breaking news saw viewership, though only a fraction of what was achieved during primetime. Flight 17 also wasn't the only story of the day, with conflict in the Gaza Strip getting breaking news attention around 3 p.m. ET.

Of all the swells in audience during Thursday, few were as big as Megyn Kelly's. The Kelly File, still eclipsed by The O'Reilly Factor for the night's top cable news broadcast, earned its most watched telecast to date with an average 3.185 million viewers. For his part, lead-out Sean Hannity also brought highs since moving to the 10 p.m. time slot: 2.58 million viewers and 615,000 adults 25-54.