CNN Has Most-Watched Day Ever With Capitol Insurrection Coverage

By A.J. Katz 

Americans flocked to CNN in record numbers on Wednesday to watch the horrific scenes from the United States Capitol, as a violent mob of the President’s supporters broke into the Capitol building with the intent of stopping electoral college votes from being counted.

January 6, 2021 will officially go down as the most-watched day ever for CNN, which launched in 1980. The network averaged 9 million viewers on Wednesday from 2:30-6:30 p.m. ET, 5.9 million total viewers across the 24-hour day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.), and 8.4 million viewers in prime time.

CNN outperformed other cable news networks that covered the riots in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.), and in primetime (8-11 p.m.), both in total viewers and among adults 25-54.


Not only did CNN beat the cable news competition, but it also averaged more viewers than the broadcast networks (when they were on the air with news coverage) during the day and in prime time in both total viewers and among adults 25-54.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021 was also the highest-rated day in MSNBC’s 25-year history during the 6 a.m.-2 a.m. time period (4.5 million viewers).

Fox News also earned its highest total day and prime time averages in total viewers and in the key demographic since 2020 election coverage (Nov. 3-Nov. 5) as well as the network’s highest daytime average (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) across the board since the day after the election.

Here are the daytime viewing numbers, 2:3o-6:30 p.m. ET.

Total Viewers:

  • CNN: 8,965,000
  • Fox News: 5,740,000
  • MSNBC: 5,590,000
  • ABC: 4,853,000
  • CBS: 3,695,000

*We hear NBC’s daytime ratings won’t arrive until Monday.

Adults 25-54:

  • CNN: 3,092,000
  • Fox News: 1,457,000
  • MSNBC: 1,304,000
  • ABC: 1,257,000
  • CBS: 947,000

Nearly 34 million watched live news coverage across broadcast and cable in prime time. By 8 p.m., the rioting had significantly calmed down, and coverage focused on electoral college vote counting, and the debates between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

Below is what prime time viewership looked like, 8-11 p.m. ET.

Total Viewers:

  • CNN: 8,424,000
  • MSNBC: 7,593,000
  • NBC: 5,774,000
  • ABC: 4,882,000
  • Fox News: 4,705,000
  • CBS: 2,571,000

Adults 25-54:

  • CNN: 3,197,000
  • MSNBC: 2,038,000
  • NBC: 1.776,000
  • ABC: 1,336,000
  • Fox News: 1,191,000
  • CBS: 630,000