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30.6 Million Watched, but Total Was No Record

June 15, 2005|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

Coverage of the not-guilty verdicts in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial drew millions of viewers -- but still fell short of a ratings thriller.

A combined average national audience of 30.6 million people tuned in to live coverage from 1:43 p.m. -- when news programs trained their cameras on Jackson's caravan racing to the courthouse -- to 3 p.m., according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

The bulk of those viewers -- 28.1 million -- watched on one of 11 English-language networks covering the verdicts, including broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC (which preempted regular programming) and four all-news cable outlets: Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and Headline News. Court TV, E! Entertainment and two MTV-branded channels also covered the verdicts.

In addition, nearly 2.5 million viewers watched on the Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo.

Because Nielsen generally measures only the number of viewers watching at home, the figures don't include the millions who probably tuned in at their workplaces or elsewhere.

Even so, the Jackson numbers were somewhat lower than the saturation trial coverage might have indicated. By comparison, the verdicts in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in October 1995 drew a huge nationwide audience of 51 million.In February 2003, ABC drew 27.1 million viewers for a special "20/20" episode titled "Living with Michael Jackson," in which the pop star told journalist Martin Bashir about his habit of sleeping with young boys.

That show led to an investigation by authorities, who later brought charges of child molestation and conspiracy against Jackson.

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