Cable ratings soared, and broadcast nets and stations roadblocked coverage Monday as news broke that the jury in the Michael Jackson trial had reached a verdict.
Fox News Channel attracted 4.5 million viewers from 5 p.m. to 5:15 ET, while CNN nabbed 3.5 million and MSNBC recorded 1.3 million viewers. Court TV pulled in 3.4 million, its largest audience ever.
Most viewers stuck around for the analysis of the "not-guilty-on-all-counts" verdict .
During the 5 p.m. hour, Fox News averaged 3.7 million viewers, followed by CNN’s 3.03 million and MSNBC’s 1.104 million. MTV’s live coverage attracted 886,000 viewers 12-34 years old, its core audience, out-delivering the cable news networks in the young demo.
In total, 13 national networks carried the verdict live.
Between 4:43 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET Monday, the wall-to-wall coverage tallied a total of 24.6 million households on 11 English language networks and two Spanish-language, according to Nielsen Media Research. The networks that interrupted regular afternoon programming for the not guilty verdict included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Court TV, E!, Headline News, MTV, MTV2, Telemundo and Univision.
In top market New York, UPN affiliate WWOR, which is owned by Fox, carried the Fox News feed, while WB station WPIX aired its own coverage.
Stations in Los Angeles cut into early afternoon programming to deliver the news.
ABC-owned KABC went first, cutting in at 12:30 p.m. PT. Through 4 p.m., it posted the highest local ratings, a 5.0 rating/ 14 share. KNBC jumped in around 1 p.m. local time and averaged a 2.4/7 through 4 p.m. KTTV, the Fox station, averaged 1.6/4 for its afternoon coverage. The WB station, KTLA, and CBS-owned KCBS and KCAL also ran special reports. KABC continued to lead through the early evening newscasts. By late news, KNBC was, as usual, top-rated, pulling in a 6.0/13, followed by KABC’s 3.9/9 and KCBS with a 3.3/7.
In prime time, NBC and CBS opted for special editions of their newsmagazines.
NBC’s Jackson-themed Dateline attracted 5.7 million viewers and a 1.9 rating/6 share in 18- 49s.
A half-hour version of 48 Hours on CBS posted similar Nielsen marks with 5.5 million viewers and a 1.6/5.
On cable, Fox News was most-watched in prime, averaging 1.99 million viewers, up 21% from its May average. CNN recorded 1.28 million, up 94% from May. Headline News came in third with 540,000 viewers, a 49% improvement, and MSNBC trailed with 445,000, although that was up 56% from May.
E!'s live coverage mustered 159,000 viewers in the 5 p.m. hour and 243,000 viewers in prime time., only about half of its prime time average in May.