As soon as the white smoke started wafting out of the Vatican chimney, viewers turned on their television sets and navigated to cable news on Wednesday afternoon.
All four networks saw spikes from typical afternoon coverage, with the biggest boosts coming between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. ET. as Pope Francis appeared before Italian crowd. Fox News Channel led the pack with 2.23 million viewers in the time period (443,000 adults 25-54), anchored by Shepard Smith. CNN followed with 1.49 million viewers (420,000 adults 25-54), HLN’s 913,000 viewers (315,000 adults 25-54) and MSNBC with 597,000 viewers (142,000 adults 25-54).
PHOTOS: Popes on Screen: Top Papal Performances in Film and TV
Viewership tapered after newly-minted pontiff bid everyone a good night, but total day hauls and primetime returns saw differing boosts from pope coverage.
Compared to last Wednesday, CNN saw a roughly 50 percent jump in total viewers as it tends to with big events — rising to 573,000 in total day and 767,000 in primetime.
Fox News Channel, still leading the pack in all measures, did not see CNN’s growth as the pope story continued to unfold later in the day — but averaged a dominant 2.29 million viewers in primetime with 353,000 of them adults 25-54.