Trump Impeachment Inquiry Juices Cable News Ratings

Primetime lineups on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN have all improved by double digits since the proceedings were announced.
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From left: Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Anderson Cooper

The launch of a congressional impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has led to a spike in cable news ratings, with the primetime lineups on all three primary channels rising by double digits over their recent averages.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry on Sept. 24, primetime viewership for Fox News, MSNBC and CNN has collectively grown by 23 percent compared to the networks' third-quarter averages. The gains are across the board, from prime leader Hannity (up 12.5 percent) to CNN Tonight, which is up 53 percent over the past five weeknights (it was starting from the lowest point, making a big percentage jump easier).

Ratings in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 also rose in concert with the total viewer gains.

Sunday public-affairs shows on the broadcast networks also improved week to week as the subject dominated news coverage into the weekend.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show had the biggest total-viewer gain after news of the inquiry broke, averaging 3.29 million viewers from Sept. 24-27 and on Sept. 30. That's a jump of 770,000 viewers (31 percent) over the show's third-quarter average of 2.52 million.

All In With Chris Hayes rose by 600,000 (1.53 million to 2.13 million, a 39 percent bump), and Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell improved by about 560,000 viewers (1.94 million in the third quarter to 2.52 million).

Fox News has had more modest percentage gains — but its shows were starting from a higher baseline, and the network also maintained its primetime lead. Tucker Carlson Tonight (+270,000 viewers, up 9 percent), Hannity (+410,000, up 12.5 percent) and The Ingraham Angle (+200,000, up 8 percent) all boosted their viewership.

At CNN, Anderson Cooper 360 (1.36 million, including two hours Monday), Cuomo Primetime (1.52 million) and CNN Tonight (1.23 million) all posted gains of at least 42 percent. The three shows were all above 1 million viewers over the five-day stretch; only Cuomo Primetime topped that mark for the third quarter as a whole.

On Sunday morning, NBC's Meet the Press gathered 3.28 million viewers, up 13 percent from the previous week. Face the Nation added about 100,000 viewers for CBS, climbing to 3.02 million, and ABC's This Week came in just under 3 million, also up week to week.

The post-impeachment inquiry ratings spike on cable came at the tail end of a month when all three cable news nets took year-to-year hits. In primetime, Fox News fell by 8 percent in viewers and 27 percent in adults 25-54 vs. a year ago, while still leading by a sizable margin. MSNBC and CNN each lost 21 percent year to year in viewers and 37 percent apiece in adults 25-54.