The 10-Most-Read TVNewser Stories of 2020

By A.J. Katz Comment

This year was like no other for the television news business, and we’re not just talking about the impact Covid-19 had on every single newsroom.

Fox News, CNN and MSNBC set ratings records. Cesar Conde replaced Andy Lack as NBC News Group chairman. Rashida Jones was named Phil Griffin‘s successor as president of MSNBC. Joy Reid replaced Chris Matthews as MSNBC’s 7 p.m. host. Shep Smith joined CNBC and got his own show in the 7 p.m. hour. Ed Henry was fired from Fox News over “willful sexual misconduct in the workplace.” Steve Scully was suspended from C-SPAN. Jeffrey Toobin took some time away from CNN after an embarrassing episode over a Zoom call that got him fired from The New Yorker.

Those are just a few of the major changes that transpired in the news business in 2020, and to mark the end of the year, we decided to compile a list of the 10-most-viewed stories on TVNewser published in 2020.

Some of the top 10 finishers could make sense to you, while others could surprise you.

As one might imagine, a ton of the top posts from 2020 are of the Scoreboard variety, but we have decided to exclude overnight, weekly, monthly and quarterly ratings stories from this particular top 10, as well as stories published prior to this year.

The most-read story for 2019 was: Fox News Has Reportedly Suspended Jeanine Pirro. One might recall Pirro having been suspended from Fox News on March 16 of last year, roughly one week after claiming on her top-rated Saturday night opinion show that Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar was “sharia compliant” and disloyal to the U.S. Constitution because she wears a hijab.

Pirro returned to her Saturday prime time show two weeks later.

Let’s move to the present, starting at No. 10, all the way down to the most-viewed TVNewser story of 2020.

10. On Night 1 of 2020 RNC, Fox News Delivers a Record 7 Million Viewers; Ratings for Other Networks Are Poor

Our stories about the Republican and Democratic National Conventions did particularly well this year. This one had to do with opening night ratings for this election cycle’s RNC.

Excerpt:

According to final live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, the opening night of the 2020 RNC drew 17 million total viewers across 11 networks during the 10 p.m. hour. That’s up from the 15.8 million viewers across six networks reported earlier today.

That’s 14% less than what the Democrats drew on opening night of their convention (19.75 million), and 26% down from what the party drew on Night 1 of its 2016 convention (23.02 million).

Networks included are: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, CNNe, Fox Business Network, Fox News, MSNBC, Newsmax (New) and Newsy.

Night 1 of the convention was carried live from Charlotte, N.C., Washington, D.C., and remotely from venues throughout the country. The night featured speeches from former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

9. Two-Minute Biden Ad Runs Toward End of Tucker Carlson’s Show, and Before ABC, CBS and NBC Began Their RNC Coverage

Throw Tucker Carlson‘s name into a headline, and it’s sure to garner interest. One can make the argument that Fox News’ 8 p.m. host has surpassed Sean Hannity as the most polarizing personality on cable news. His fans love him and tune into his show religiously. However, he has far more than his fair share of detractors.

The Biden campaign’s decision to purchase two minutes of ad time on Tucker Carlson Tonight—a show which has lost many advertisers over the years—was an interesting move. We figured why not cover it?

Excerpt:

Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign did a little trolling of President Trump last night, buying national airtime on four major TV networks carrying the final night of the RNC: top-rated Fox News, ABC, NBC and CBS.

The two-minute pro-Biden spot, titled “Keep Up,” aired on Fox News from 8:55-8:57 p.m. ET, just before Tucker Carlson signed off and minutes before Sean Hannity took over. As the image to the right shows, the ad was shown in a split screen, seemingly drowning out a chunk of speech being given by Trump’s social media czar Dan Scavino.

8. Trump Abruptly Walked Out of His 60 Minutes Interview With Lesley Stahl 

60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl was at the White House in late October to interview President Trump for the broadcast. This is the third time Stahl will have interviewed Trump since he was elected in 2016. However, the president apparently felt this conversation with Stahl wasn’t going well, or felt it was unfair because after the 45-minute mark, he suddenly walked out of the interview and left without doing the scheduled “walk” he was supposed to tape with the vice president.
The president sent out a tweet at around 4 p.m. ET showing footage of Stahl not wearing a mask, with the caption: “Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come.”
Trump later posted the full interview on his Facebook page. 60 Minutes aired the interview on its broadcast a few days later, as planned.

CBS This Morning: Saturday (SATMO) co-host Michelle Miller delivered a very personal piece which aired on the June 5 broadcast of CBS This Morning, during which she shares her personal experience with racism. Miller told viewers that she is “the product of an interracial union” and grew up in South Central L.A. in the 1970s. Her father celebrated the union, but she says her white mother and the white side of her family does not even acknowledge her to this day.She said that it’s something that informs her reporting.

Excerpt:

“An early lesson for me came from my grandmother, right or wrong, she warned me to steer clear of police officers,” Miller said via voiceover, adding that her father became a doctor at age 22 and campaigned for the late Bobby Kennedy during his presidential run. Miller’s father was by RFK’s side when he was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968.

6. New Day Co-Anchor John Berman Goes Off on Tucker Carlson’s Response From Last Night: ‘That Was a Sham, That Wasn’t an Apology at All’

On July 14, CNN New Day with John Berman and Alisyn Camerota brought their colleague Oliver Darcy onto the program this morning to discuss Tucker Carlson’s on-air response to his now-former top writer’s resignation from Fox News.

Darcy had written an in-depth story about how the writer, Blake Neff, had been using an online alias to post racist, sexist and homophobic remarks in an online forum named AutoAdmit for many years and as recently as late June.

The story by Darcy led to Neff’s resignation.

Berman said:

“That was a sham, that wasn’t an apology at all. What the hell does he mean when he says: ‘You shouldn’t attack people for the qualities they can’t control?’ Tucker Carlson can’t make himself say ‘racist.’ Say the word: ‘racist.’ Attack people for qualities they can’t control? You know, that sounds coded to me. What does that mean? You know, I can’t control being white or Black or Jewish or gentile? What the hell does that mean? I can’t believe—actually I can believe that Tucker went on and did this last night and then to set up being holy as the opposite of being racist. Like Oliver, it’s your fault, it’s your fault for doing this reporting on this guy who wrote stuff for Tucker.”

5. Jake Tapper Breaks Story That White House Has ‘Issued a Formal Threat’ to Ex-NSA John Bolton

Not everyday does a TV news anchor break national security-related news, but Jake Tapper did exactly that on Jan. 29 of this year.

According to Tapper, The White House issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his memoir, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.

Excerpt:

The White House’s formal threat (in the form of a letter) comes after Pres. Trump has been sending out tweets, attacking his former NSA. Additionally, Bolton’s lawyer has been accusing the White House of damaging the vetting process for Bolton’s book by sharing its contents with those outside the National Security Council’s Records Management Division.

4. Bill Murray Appears on Fox Business, Claims He Doesn’t Own Stock: ‘I Don’t Buy Anything. People Just Give Me Gifts, Presents’

It’s not everyday that we get to cover Bill Murray on TVNewser, but when he makes an appearance on Fox Business Network, you have to do it.

While Fox News contributor Robert Wolf was doing a live hit on Liz Claman’s FBN show from his home on Martha’s Vineyard—where he recently hosted a fundraiser for former vp Joe Biden—a second guest could be seen in the background, just hanging out, reading some literature and looking toward the monitor once every so often.

He eventually joined both Wolf and Claman during the segment, and livened up FBN’s 3 p.m. hour like only Murray can.

3. Fox News, Heather Childers Part Ways

Heather Childers, Fox News 4 a.m. host, had been absent from the FNC airwaves since mid-March, when she exhibited some coronavirus-esque symptoms in the studio. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that she “She coughed and sneezed on the air—and dismayed some of her colleagues.” Fast-forward to July, and the network said in a statement that it had “parted ways” with the longtime Fox Newser.

2. The Rachel Maddow Show Attracted 5.23 Million Viewers Last Night, Largest Audience in the History of the Show 

The July 17 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show featured the first cable news interview for President Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, whose book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, hit bookstores the previous day and set a Simon & Schuster first-day sales record of 950,000 copies.

Mary Trump had plenty to say about her uncle that night, and Maddow’s left-leaning viewers were more than happy to tune in for the details.

Excerpt:

Last night’s broadcast ended up being not only the most-watched program on television last night, but it was also TRMS’ highest-rated hour ever, and was the highest rated regularly scheduled broadcast ever on MSNBC.

An average of 5.23 million total viewers watched MSNBC’s 9 p.m. hour, a huge number by cable standards, and a number that shatters the previous program record of 4.5 million total viewers and 844,000 Adults 25-54 on Jan. 15, 2020. 

And the most-read TVNewser story of 2020 is … (socially-distanced drumroll, please)

1. Here Are Final Ratings for the 2020 DNC and the 2020 RNC

Many people come to TVNewser for our coverage of television ratings, so it should come as no surprise that our most-read story of 2020 had to do with the Nielsen ratings of major political events. In this case, it was how the 2020 DNC and RNC fared against one another on the ratings front.

(Spoiler: This year’s DNC averaged more total viewers than this year’s RNC).

Excerpt:

According to live-plus-same-day data, the four-day 2020 virtual DNC averaged 21.6 million total viewers across four nights. That’s down 18% from 2016, when the live convention delivered 26.2 million total viewers.

The four-day 2020 RNC, which was less virtual, averaged 19.4 million total viewers per night. That’s a 21% decline from 2016 (24.6 million).

The DNC averaged 10% more viewers this year than the RNC (21,588,000 versus 19,392,250). A total of 24,603,000 watched the final night of the DNC, which featured former vp Joe Biden‘s acceptance speech. A total of 23,814,000 watched the final night of the RNC, which featured President Donald Trump‘s acceptance speech.  That’s a +3% difference between the two nights. Again, this does not take viewership on outlets like C-SPAN or OANN into account, or viewing on digital platforms—only Nielsen-measured TV networks.

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