Michael Cohen Hearing Draws 16 Million Viewers

The former Trump lawyer's grilling by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform was the most watched program on TV Wednesday.
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Michael Cohen

The biggest thing on TV Wednesday wasn't the finale of The Masked Singer — it was former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testifying before Congress.

Blanket coverage of Cohen's testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on broadcast networks and cable news channels delivered just under 16 million viewers, according to Nielsen figures. The total includes coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. 

CBS' coverage, which ran from 9:45 a.m.-3 p.m. ET, drew the biggest total audience with just under 3.06 million viewers. ABC averaged 2.95 million, and NBC drew 2.48 million from 9:45 a.m.-3 p.m. MSNBC led cable news from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. with 2.86 million viewers, followed by Fox News, 2.38 million, and CNN, 2.17 million, for a six-network total of 15.9 million.

CNN, however, led its cable competition in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 with 593,000 people from that age group tuning in. MSNBC drew 456,000 in the demo and Fox News 394,000. On broadcast, ABC (724,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo) topped NBC (717,000) and CBS (663,000).

The hearing also propelled MSNBC to its best total-day audience ever (2.37 million), excluding presidential election days.

Fox News reclaimed the overall cable-news lead in primetime as coverage shifted (depending on the outlet) to the U.S.-North Korea summit. Fox News averaged 3.45 million viewers in primetime to 3.14 million for MSNBC and 1.79 million for CNN. MSNBC had a small demographic edge with 645,000 adults 25-54 to 629,000 for Fox News. CNN drew 577,000 in the demo.

Cohen's testimony will likely end up as a somewhat smaller draw than a couple recent pieces of televised political theater. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing in September 2018 brought in more than 20 million viewers, and former FBI director James Comey's congressional testimony in June 2017 averaged about 19.5 million.

March 1, 8:05 a.m. Updated with NBC ratings.