A big crowd tuned in Thursday morning for the testimony of former FBI director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey’s testimony about the investigation into Russian election interference and possible involvement by members of the Trump administration averaged 18.2 million viewers across ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Add in HLN, Fox Business and Spanish-language coverage on Univision and Telemundo and the total rises to 19.49 million.

All six of the leading networks got a good-sized chunk of the audience, with every channel drawing between 2.7 million and 3.3 million viewers for the hearing, which ran from 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m. ET.

ABC had the biggest total audience with 3.3 million people tuning in, just ahead of CBS’ 3.29 million. Fox News finished third with 3.1 million viewers, followed by CNN, 3.06 million; MSNBC, 2.74 million; and NBC, 2.72 million.

The total audience is likely somewhat larger, as the figures above don’t include coverage on commercial-free networks PBS and C-SPAN, out-of-home viewing or live streaming.

CNN led in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 during Comey’s testimony with a 0.85 rating, equivalent to 1.02 million viewers in that age group. NBC (0.71/859,000) and ABC (0.71/854,000) were in a virtual tie for second place. CBS drew 0.65/784,000 in the news demo, MSNBC 0.53/633,000 and Fox News 0.5/600,000.

The testimony helped MSNBC to its most-watched daytime period (9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET) ever with 2.12 million viewers. It was only the second time the network had topped 2 million daytime viewers.

MSNBC also led cable news in primetime among adults 25-54 with 757,000 viewers in the demo, topping Fox’s 667,000 and CNN’s 601,000. Fox News was the overall leader in primetime Thursday with 3.18 million viewers, followed by MSNBC (2.76 million) and CNN (1.71 million).

Among individual primetime news shows, “Hannity” (3.351 million) on Fox News barely edged “The Rachel Maddow Show” (3.349 million) in total viewers, with “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (3.29 million) a close third. Maddow won the 25-54 race with a 0.8 rating to Sean Hannity’s 0.6 and Carlson’s 0.5.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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