Almost 13.8 million TV viewers watched the first day of public testimony in the House impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, falling short of the mammoth audience that tuned in to see James Comey’s congressional testimony in 2017.
Fox Corp.’s Fox News, whose prime-time shows often champion the president, drew the biggest audience, with 2.9 million viewers. It was followed closely by Comcast Corp.’s MSNBC, with 2.7 million, based on Nielsen ratings.
The total viewership figure roughly compares with the 19.5 million viewers who watched Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, more than two years ago.
It’s harder to say how the audiences compare with earlier high-profile hearings, since the TV landscape has changed so much over the years. Today, many people watch clips of events on social media or they stream them online. In contrast, 71% of Americans said they saw the Watergate hearings live on TV, according to Gallup.
On a Saturday in 1998, CNN’s audience for a House of Representatives vote on the Clinton impeachment averaged 1.8 million homes, according to the New York Times. When CBS switched from the impeachment hearing that year to an NFL game, its viewership quadrupled.
Wednesday’s hearing featured two experienced diplomats detailing their concerns that the president tried to leverage his office for personal political gain, including a new account of Trump stressing his desire for Ukraine to investigate a rival.
While Democrats had released transcripts of their previous testimony as part of their impeachment inquiry, the lawmakers had hoped that having the witnesses speak in front of a large televised audience would help build more public support for their case.