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Cable Technology Feature Article

July 16, 2013

Zimmerman Verdict Drew 10 Million to Cable News

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

The verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman attracted an audience of more than 10 million viewers to cable news networks, according to preliminary ratings returns—a massive jump from the average 1.6 million viewers that watched the same four cable news channels the Saturday night before.

FOX News led with 3.68 million viewers, just ahead of CNN with 3.4 million. In the advertiser-coveted 25-54 demographic though, CNN won the day with 1.72 million viewers, compared to 1.11 million for FOX.

MSNBC struggled, finishing in fourth place overall behind FOX, CNN and CNN’s sister network HLN (2.2 million viewers and 980,000 in the 25-54 group).  The “Lean Forward” network drew only 1.3 million viewers total and had only 510,000 in the prime demo.

The Pew (News - Alert) Research Center has released a related study that showed that the trial, despite the ubiquitous media coverage of the proceedings, drew relatively modest public interest overall. In a weekend survey, 26 percent say they were following news about the trial very closely.

The initial controversy over Trayvon Martin’s shooting, when it erupted last year in March 2012, drew more interest: 35 percent said they followed news about Martin’s shooting very closely.

However, the story has consistently attracted far more interest among blacks than whites, and that remained the case in the trial’s final days. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say they tracked news about the Zimmerman trial very closely (56 percent vs. 20 percent).

Moreover, fully 67 percent of blacks say they watched at least some live coverage of the Zimmerman trial, compared with 38 percent of whites. About one-in-five blacks (21 percent) say they watched “almost all’’ of the trial coverage; just 5 percent of whites reported watching almost all of it.

Pew reported that some other racially charged news events it had studied showed higher national percentages of close interest, including the arrest of O. J. Simpson in 1994 (48 percent) and the riots that followed the acquittal of police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King in 1992 (70 percent).

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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