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Fox News grabs most viewers for Trump verdict, MSNBC wins in prime-time

More than 4.73 million people watched Fox News during the key 5 p.m. Eastern Time block, but MSNBC had a higher audience with late-evening news coverage.

More than 4.73 million people watched Fox News during the key 5 p.m. Eastern Time block, but MSNBC had a higher audience with late-evening news coverage.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow delivers a report near the New York courthouse where former President Donald Trump stood trial on April 22, 2024. (Photo by SWinxy, Editing by The Desk)
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow delivers a report near the New York courthouse where former President Donald Trump stood trial on April 22, 2024. (Photo by SWinxy, Editing by The Desk)

The Fox News Channel grabbed the highest cable news audience amid interest in real-time reports on the verdict in former President Donald Trump’s criminal “hush money” trial, according to finalized Nielsen data reviewed by The Desk.

More than 4.73 million viewers watched Fox News’ coverage of the verdict from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, according to Nielsen data. That includes 665,000 adults ages 25 to 54 years old (A25-54), the demographic most attractive to advertisers.

On Thursday, demographics didn’t matter so much — every major broadcast and cable news channel offered uninterrupted coverage of the verdict as it was read, and for several hours afterward. Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts related to the falsification of business records and the concealment of payments made to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, better known as “Stormy Daniels.”

If anything, the moment was tailor-made for CNN, America’s first cable news channel that famously sparred with Trump during his time in the White House. While CNN had the second-highest A25-54 viewers during the 5 p.m. block (602,000), it placed third overall with just 2.615 million total viewers, according to Nielsen.

MSNBC emerged as the big winner of the night overall, grabbing 3.785 million viewers during the 5 p.m. block and a total of 3.541 million viewers from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Nielsen data showed. It was the second most-watched cable news channel as the verdict was being read, and the most-watched in terms of average audience from 5 p.m. through the end of the evening.

Fox News drew a higher average audience during the broadcast day, with 1.873 million tuning in before and after the verdict, according to Nielsen. That includes 241,000 viewers in the A25-54 demographic. MSNBC placed second with an average of 1.633 million total day viewers and 198,000 in the A25-54 group, while CNN was third with an average of 878,000 total viewers and 198,000 A25-54 viewers.

Fox News also grabbed a significant amount of attention on its digital platforms, with the network’s live stream seeing a 301 percent lift in unique viewers due to the Trump trial coverage, according to Adobe Analytics. On social media, Fox News had 1.2 million interactions across Facebook, Instagram and X/Twitter, according to Emplifi.

The following Nielsen data corresponds with coverage of the Trump verdict across the three major cable news networks, as well as post-verdict coverage through Thursday evening:

4 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT

  • Fox News Channel: 3.494 million viewers (472,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • MSNBC: 2.888 million viewers (354,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • CNN: 1.801 million viewers (383,000 A25-54 viewers)

The jury reached a verdict around 4 p.m. EDT, and the judge in the case announced the matter in open court around the same time. The media and the jury were brought into the courtroom around 4:30 p.m. EDT, and news outlets began their wall-to-wall coverage around the same time.

5 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT

  • Fox News Channel: 4.732 million viewers (665,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • MSNBC: 3.785 million viewers (493,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • CNN: 2.615 million viewers (602,000 A25-54 viewers)

The verdict was read in open court a few minutes before 5 p.m. EDT, and all three cable news organizations began reporting the verdict a short time later. MSNBC was the first to report Trump had been convicted on all 34 felony counts, with Fox News confirming the same less than a minute later. CNN was the last to report the sweeping conviction. All three cable news channels offered commercial-free coverage during this programming block.

8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT

  • MSNBC: 3.402 million viewers (417,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • Fox News Channel: 3.073 million viewers (378,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • CNN: 1.254 million viewers (255,000 A25-54 viewers)

CNN and MSNBC offered rolling news and analysis of the Trump verdict. Fox News Channel covered the verdict through its prime-time news and opinion programming, which aired as scheduled. 

5 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT

  • MSNBC: 3.541 million viewers (450,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • Fox News Channel: 3.398 million viewers (439,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • CNN: 1.745 million viewers (374,000 A25-54 viewers)

Total Day

  • Fox News Channel: 1.873 million viewers (241,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • MSNBC: 1.633 million viewers (198,000 A25-54 viewers)
  • CNN: 878,000 viewers (176,000 A25-54 viewers)

The Fox News Channel and Fox News Digital are units of Fox News Media, which is a subsidiary of Fox Corporation. CNN is owned by Warner Bros Discovery. MSNBC is part of Comcast-owned NBC Universal.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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