Preliminary fast national ratings from Nielsen for Sunday night are in, and they show a very strong performance from CNN as the news about Osama Bin Laden broke.
From 10-11 PM ET, CNN averaged 2.329 million total viewers, including 960,000 adults 25-54. Fox News was close behind with 2.317 million total viewers/895,000 demo viewers. MSNBC was a distant third with 1.085 million total viewers, 485,000 A25-54.
From 11 PM -12 AM ET, when President Obama spoke, CNN drew 7.763 million total viewers, including 3.904 million A25-54. Fox News drew 4.778 million total viewers,/2.070 million A25-54. MSNBC drew 2.275 million total viewers/1.126 million A25-54.
Overall, from 10 PM-3 AM ET, CNN averaged 4.142 million total viewers and 2.101 demo viewers. Fox News drew 2.845 million viewers/1.267 million demo viewers. MSNBC drew 1.584 million viewers/800,000 A25-54.
The ratings were CNN’s best since election night 2008. For Fox News, they were the highest Sunday night ratings since the U.s. invasion of Baghdad in April, 2003.
Overall, the numbers suggest that when breaking news happens, and people that don’t typically watch TV news regularly tune in, CNN tends to be the biggest beneficiary. That said, Fox News and MSNBC both saw huge bumps in their typical Sunday night ratings.