As Thursday’s Al Smith dinner played out Thursday night, more than a few cable-news analysts and Twitter pundits were quick to note how “real” voters couldn’t care less about the event, in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump roasted each other (and, in Clinton’s case, herself). Said prognosticators might want to check out the just-released Nielsen ratings from last night. An eye-popping 10.3 million viewers tuned in to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 9 and 10 p.m. Thursday, an hour all three news networks devoted mostly to the Smith dinner and analysis thereof.
That’s more than 60 percent higher than the news-channel audience during the similar 9 p.m hour Tuesday. What’s more, if considered one broadcast, the 10.4 million who watched Trump get booed and Clinton tell a mix of good (and lame) jokes represent a bigger audience than watched Grey’s Anatomy (8.2 million), Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show remake (5 million) or anything else in prime time yesterday, save CBS’s telecast of the Bears–Packers game. As for individual networks, CNN — which lately has been finishing last among the news nets at 9 p.m. — was viewers’ first choice to watch the Smith dinner, drawing 3.9 million viewers. CNN chief Jeff Zucker may be the only person in America who won’t be happy to see the election end.