It wasn't exactly the three-ring circus some in the media had hoped for, but Thursday's Congressional testimony from ousted FBI Director James Comey blanketed the dial — and at a rather early hour for much of the country.
A healthy tune-in was inevitable, and initial Nielsen Media returns for the nearly-three-hour affair show indicated an incredible lift in eyeballs for the broadcasters and news networks covering the Comey testimony. Across the six big networks airing live coverage, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, the testimony pulled around 18 million viewers. Add Univision, Fox Business News and CNBC and the total climbs to 19.4 million viewers.
That linear tally for testimony coverage should climb even more additional network data comes in, but the biggest boost may come from digital. Plenty of viewers (many of them at work during the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET time frame) streamed Comey coverage on various online outlets. CNN, for one, saw 769,000 concurrent streams at one point — with a total 3.9 million stream initiations during the coverage.
Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony
Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony
This is history in the making, folks. #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony #TimeToSetTheRecordStraight #ComeyPleaseSaveUs https://t.co/BvLx0eWjdY
At some point I hope he tells us what he's been binge watching on Netflix since he lost his job #ComeyTestimony
What idiot decided to call it the #ComeyTestimony instead of James and the Giant Impeach?
#comey "It confused me when I learned on television that I was fired over the Russia investigation." #ComeyTestimony
I hope this #ComeyTestimony pilot gets picked up for a full season. It's a bit House of Cards meets American Horror Story, but it's solid.
Comey has now said that Trump has aimed to defame him and the FBI. He literally just called Trump a liar. #ComeyTestimony
Do you have any doubt of Russia's interference in the 2016 election? Comey: None #ComeyTestimony
Comey: "The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong. The FBI is and always will be independent." #ComeyTestimony
Was the FBI able to confirm any allegations in the dossier? "not a question I can answer in an open setting" #ComeyTestimony
If you're tweeting about ANYTHING other than #ComeyTestimony right now...don't. This is maybe the most important thing this year. #comeyday
Sure sounds like the Steele dossier is “credible,” but honestly is anyone at this point surprised? #ComeyTestimony
Maaaaaan this ain't no Super Bowl #Comey #ComeyTestimony #Testicomey
"Not a question I can answer in an open setting"? Come on Comey you don't have a job to lose. #ComeyTestimony
Twitter waiting on Trump tweets #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/pCUiZJoCnR
Comey: Bill Clinton's meeting with AG Loretta Lynch contributed to his decision to publicly discuss Clinton email probe. #ComeyTestimony
One thing is CLEAR: Comey is a highly respected, former member of our government. I can feel the sadness of many. #ComeyTestimony
"I was concerned he might lie." -- former FBI director about the President of the United States. #ComeyTestimony
Now we know what Trump whispered into Comey's ear: "I really look forward to working with you" #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/d0Ij5kYYnV
Comey says he was confused when @realDonaldTrump kept asking him if he wanted the job after telling him 3x he could stay. #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Oval mtg: "I'm 56 yo. I've seen a few things...I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to."
It's sad that I enjoy this far more than I do watching any sporting event. #ComeyTestimony #DCSuperBowl
Comey just gave a good lecture on using leaked info, which is often wrong or misleading #ComeyTestimony
"I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation." - #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Trump's loyalty demand: "I don't know the president well enough to read him well. … it was very awkward." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: Lordy, I hope there are tapes. #ComeyTestimony
Feinstein with the most important Q so far: why didn't you tell #Trump this wasn't appropriate? #ComeyTestimony
"Nice job you got there. 'I hope' nothing happens to it." #ComeyTestimony
Whoever is in charge of hiding the president's phone this morning deserves a raise. #ComeyTestimony
"... the odor of Presidential abuse of power is so strong." - Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon. #ComeyTestimony
"A J. Edgar Hoover situation" can mean a lot of things. #ComeyTestimony
Comey is a really good, experienced witness #ComeyTestimony
OK. The written testimony needed to be pre-reading for ALL of the senators. #ComeyTestimony
I've never wanted Trump to tweet so badly in my entire life. Pick your phone up! Do it!! DO IT!!!!
"A gut feel" = why #ComeySays he kept memos of Trump meetings #ComeyTestimony
#ComeyTestimony "The Russians interfered in our election in 2016-2017... there is no fuzz on that... that's about as unfake as you can get"
Why did he kick everyone out….As an investigator that's a very significant act. #ComeyTestimony
"They'll be back," Comey says of election meddling by the Russians. #ComeyTestimony
Comey says he broke date night with his wife to attend dinner with President Trump. Moral of story, never break date night? #ComeyTestimony
Comey on leaking to the media: "Like feeding seagulls at the beach"
"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty."
Front pages today @BostonGlobe @bostonherald #ComeyTestimony @boston25 https://t.co/fIjAlmwqDe
#comey was asked if he thought he would've been fired if Hillary Clinton was president: "I don't know." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: If @realDonaldTrump taped me, 'my feelings aren't hurt. Release all of the tapes. I'm good with it' #ComeyTestimony
"That's Bob Mueller's job to sort that out." When asked whether this arises to obstruction of justice. #ComeyTestimony
Laughter as Comey says he's 'between opportunities' right now. #ComeyTestimony
Senators have 7 minutes to ask questions; not sure why they waste 90 seconds of it on waffle-y preamble #ComeyTestimony
Trump's lawyer expected to make a statement after the Comey hearing finishes #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony
“I’m not sure if he’s watched any of” #ComeyTestimony, “it’s a regular Thursday of the White House,” says @SHSanders45.
If Comey didn’t trust Trump, he should have resigned. #ComeyTestimony
"I was fired to change the way the Russian investigation was being conducted." #ComeyTestimony
"I'm not going to sit here and try to interpret the president's tweets." - Comey #ComeyHearings #ComeyDay https://t.co/HLXrGxWHZ8
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Comey's grilling, which found him recounting several awkward encounters with President Donald Trump in an effort to determine any potential presidential wrong-doing, was the marquee event in another eventful week covering the Trump administration. The cable news networks went wall-to-wall with Comey analysis for the duration of Thursday, even as news of the British parliamentary election came in.
Individual networks faring best during coverage include ABC, which locked the total viewer race with nearly 3.3 million viewers, and CNN. The latter topped in the news demo of adults 25-54 with over 1 million. Among the cable news networks' FNC narrowly had the total audience advantage with 3.1 million viewers to CNN's 3.05 million. The resulting primetime post mortem brought a demo victory for MSNBC and an audience win for FNC.
Others obviously benefited from all of the Comey interest — Stephen Colbert being one of them. An original Late Show surged 65 percent from the comparable night a year ago, averaging a 2.8 rating among metered market households. (That's the best overnight since the show's 2015 premiere week.)