After President Donald Trump spoke live for more than an hour Thursday about his impeachment acquittal, one television network anchor apologized to viewers for a presidential obscenity, while another said it was like watching someone on a therapist’s couch. Yet there’s no indication that anyone in the control rooms at ABC, CBS and NBC considered pulling the plug on him.
Fox News Channel appeared to benefit from the impeachment more than its rivals. Its viewership during daytime hours for the months of November, December and January was up 19% compared with the same three months a year earlier, Nielsen said. Rivals CNN and MSNBC saw a decrease in viewers, perhaps due to a lack of suspense in the eventual outcome.
With coverage of the Trump impeachment pretty much an overwhelming information dump, some may question why broadcast TV should bother, especially given the loss of ad revenue that results. It is during times like this that we must remember why local over-the-air television is fundamentally different from cable, OTT and all the rest. We are not just businesses. We are stewards of the public trust, operating on the public airways. Our service is free to anyone with an antenna. If viewers choose to pay to watch us on satellite, cable or OTT, then great, but no one is required to do that.
About 8.9 million TV viewers watched the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the first day Democrats laid out their case against the president, marking a significant drop from the roughly 11 million viewers who watched on Tuesday, according to Nielsen ratings data.
ABC, CBS and NBC all stuck with regularly scheduled programs like Chicago Med, Criminal Minds and Modern Family Wednesday evening instead of showing the House managers’ evening session at the impeachment trial. That lasted about two hours, 15 minutes. CNN and MSNBC carried the trial in full. Fox News Channel, after showing Rep. Adam Schiff speak for about a half hour, interrupted for a story about a child support case involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and never returned.
It was noticed when CBS cut off the trial around 3:15 p.m. ET Tuesday, while rivals ABC and NBC stuck with it. A CBS representative noted that the network’s news streaming service was continuing to carry the trial, and that network affiliates were given the choice to continue to show the Senate if that’s what their executives preferred.
The usual suspects are gearing up to cover the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the latest swirl in what seems to be a never-ending news cycle centered on the White House. But the impeachment proceedings, which kick off in earnest Tuesday, take place as many networks are also deep into coverage of the race among Democrats to secure the nomination for the 2020 election.
Both Fox News Channel and NBC had roughly 5 million viewers during the hour, starting at 8 p.m. ET, when the House took separate votes Wednesday on two articles of impeachment, Nielsen said. MSNBC had 3.2 million viewers and CNN had 2.84 million.
David Zurawik: “As this year of the TV hearing comes to a close, I should be singing [the broadcast and cable networks] praises. There has never been more overall political coverage in any one year than in 2019. But the question that demands not just being asked but also honestly discussed is whether all that television coverage has made any real-world difference. And if not, what does that say about the belief I have long held in the power of TV, which remains the principal storyteller in American life, to change the world with its cameras?”
When Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gavel signaled that Trump had been impeached, CBS was airing the season conclusion of Survivor and ABC was showing a live version of the old All in the Family sitcom. The Fox broadcast network, which hadn’t shown the hearing all day, aired The Masked Singer. NBC was the only major broadcast network to stick with impeachment through the vote.
The broadcast and cable networks were blanketing the start of House impeachment debate Wednesday (Dec. 18), with the public provided a window into the scarcity of parliamentary procedures as Republicans launched various efforts to delay the vote.