2:21pm PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: HLN Swells With Jodi Arias Verdict Coverage
The 19-week media circus around the Jodi Arias murder trial reached its climax on Wednesday with the jury's reading of a guilty verdict against the 32-year-old Arizona woman -- and cable news reaped the ratings benefits.
HLN, which has seen atypically strong returns since January thanks to wall-to-wall coverage of the trial, predictably came out on top in the hour when the verdict was read. The 4 p.m. hour saw HLN's haul swell to 646,000 adults 25-54, besting the big three with CNN (522,000), Fox News Channel (457,000) and MSNBC (106,000) all trailing in their Phoenix dispatches. HLN host Nancy Grace's heavy coverage of Travis Alexander's 2008 killing had made her somewhat synonymous with the trial.
Among total viewers, FNC maintained its usual edge with 2.76 million viewers, though HLN surged to a very uncharacteristic second place status with 2.198 million viewers. CNN trailed with 1.52 million viewers, followed by MSNBC with 395,000.
Boosted as HLN might have been, the Arias verdict remains a far cry from its record hauls brought in at the conclusion of the Casey Anthony trial. July 2011 saw HLN jump to 5.2 million viewers when a Florida court found the accused mother innocent of killing her daughter.
Wednesday brought a mixed bag of different news stories. The morning was dominated by coverage of the Benghazi hearings, which FNC topped easily by all measures. And in primetime, most non-HLN coverage returned to ongoing developments with the Cleveland kidnapping story in the evening. That drove CNN to a close second to FNC in the key demo, losing with 454,000 viewers compared to FNC's 471,000.
Interest in the Arias trial is not over yet. The jury went back into deliberation on Thursday to decide whether Arias will be sentenced to death. In a Wednesday interview with the Phoenix, Ariz, Fox affiliate, Arias said she preferred it to the prospect of life in prison.