Day 4 Senate Impeachment Trial Ratings: Total Viewership Increases as Trump’s Lawyers Present Their Defense

By A.J. Katz 

The fourth day of the 2021 Senate impeachment trial featured President Trump’s legal team presenting its defense on behalf of their client.

Roughly 11 million total viewers and 2.1 million adults 25-54 across 5 Nielsen-measured networks watched Friday common coverage of the trial. That’s up +5% from day three, but down from days one and two.

What caused the growth? Fox News. One day after drawing an average of just 815,000 viewers for the House managers’ presentation, the network drew a whopping 2.2 million for the defense team’s presentation. That’s +171% day-to-day growth, and as one might have guessed, the network’s largest average audience of the week – even outdrawing both CBS and ABC in total viewers (but not the demo).


Friday, Feb.12, 2021

 Senate Impeachment Trial Day 4 Common Coverage 
Network Total Viewers (000) A25-54 Viewers (000) Time Period (ET)
MSNBC 2,674,000 406,000 12-6:30 p.m.
CNN 2,539,000 589,000 12-6:30 p.m.
Fox News 2,208,000 298,000 12-6:30 p.m.
CBS 1,967,000 436,000 11:58-4:33 p.m.
ABC 1,604,000 360,000 12-3:34 p.m.
NBC n/a n/a n/a

*Preliminary Nielsen live-plus-same-day data

Despite Fox News viewership growth, for fourth consecutive day, CNN and MSNBC were still the top-rated news networks for impeachment trial coverage across broadcast and cable.

According to fast national data from Nielsen, CNN averaged the most adults 25-54, while MSNBC averaged the largest total audience.

From 12-6:30 p.m. ET, CNN averaged 589,000 adults 25-54. MSNBC averaged nearly 2.7 million total viewers in that same time period (ABC and CBS went on slightly earlier). NBC also aired impeachment coverage Friday afternoon, but its Nielsen ratings have not been made available.

MSNBC might have remained the most-watched network, but it lost -12% of its total viewers and -17% adults 25-54 from day three. With Trump’s defense team dominating the coverage, an MSNBC ratings drop off isn’t particularly surprising.

CNN continues to dominate in the demo, but the network was -8% from day three. It was also down -12% in total viewers from day three.

ABC and CBS cut out of the event on Friday far earlier than its cable news counterparts. CBS beat ABC in total viewers for the third consecutive day. CBS was the second-ranked network of the day overall among adults 25-54.

CBS was down -1% in total viewers, but actually up +17% among adults 25-54 from day three.

ABC, 5th in total viewers, but 4th among the demo, was down -12% in total viewers, and -10% among the demo from day three.