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Some 20 million watched primetime hearing of House Jan. 6 panel

The hearing was the only one scheduled for prime-time viewing, and analysts believe it was set for that time to have maximum reach and impact.

NEW YORK — An estimated 20 million people watched Thursday night's hearing of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The figures released Friday by the Nielsen Company include viewers from 12 television networks that aired the rare primetime hearing, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX Business Network.

The numbers do not include online viewers or those who watched on PBS.

The hearing, which aired from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast, made many elements of the ongoing investigation public for the first time, including a never-before-seen 12-minute video of extremist groups leading the deadly siege, and startling testimony from President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

In some of the testimony, those close to Trump, including Attorney General Bill Barr and the president's daughter Ivanka Trump assert that they did not believe Trump's baseless claims that there was fraud in the election. 

Numerous audits and investigations have found no evidence of fraud, and state officials from around the country have confirmed that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. 

By comparison, the opening day of each of the Trump impeachment trials drew about 11 million viewers. Those aired during the day on fewer networks, but the far higher figures from Thursday suggest that the primetime experiment succeeded in capturing national attention in a way usually reserved for live sporting events.

Fox News, which did not air the hearings on its main channel, drew nearly 3 million viewers for the same two hours.

Last week's highest-rated television shows, the first two games of the NBA finals on ABC, each had between 11 million and 12 million viewers.

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