Friday's made-for-TV manhunt of Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had viewers flocking to the small screen in droves. Some 36 million tuned in to watch the dramatic coverage unfold on cable news and broadcast networks during primetime Friday, a typically light night for TV viewing.
Fox News Channel held onto its No. 1 ratings spot among cable news nets during Friday's manhunt. But perennially third-place CNN -- despite problematic coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings throughout the week -- gained a lot of ground, leaving MSNBC in the dust. CNN even beat Fox News in the key 25- to 54-year-old demo in primetime. Overall, it was CNN's most-watched night in a decade (excluding election coverage).
Cable news couldn't top the broadcast nets, which preempted much of Friday's regular programming to chronicle the search and capture.
NBC, which I thought provided the best overall coverage, ruled the roost with 8.93 million viewers in primetime Friday, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. Anchor Brian Williams and company peaked during the 7 p.m. (Chicago time) hour with 10.7 million viewers.
NBC's Brian Williams led the coverage that gleaned the most viewers Friday night
Here's how cable and broadcast nets stacked up during primetime (7 to 10 p.m.) Friday in terms of total viewers:
Fox News Channel
CNN had 2.47 million viewers in the advertising-coveted key demo (ages 25 to 54), compared to 1.93 million for Fox News. MSNBC trailed far behind with 618,000.
Fox News Channel clip from Friday night's manhunt