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News Coverage of Super Tuesday: A Close Look at Viewer Behavior

On March 3, voters in 14 states hit the polls to cast ballots for their favorite presidential candidates. The bottom line: former Vice President Joe Biden has come roaring back, Senator Bernie Sanders is still strong, Mike Bloomberg is out (and is now supporting Biden) — and Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who both failed to win any states, are on extremely thin ice. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride and has made real-time televised news coverage seem more essential than ever.

So we decided to look at viewership trends during Super Tuesday news coverage across major broadcast and cable news networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC) using data from Inscape.tv, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 12 million smart TVs.

When it comes to news consumption, many people have strong loyalty to certain outlets. Still, we wondered: What did the crossover among the Super Tuesday broadcasts look like? Were at least some viewers inclined to check out other networks as the results started to come in?

Related: Bloomberg Bows Out

Below, a look at crossover for six Tuesday broadcasts. (A note about methodology: You have to do more than just flip past a station with your remote to count as a “crossover viewer” in Inscape’s system. For the data below, the minimum viewing threshold is 10 minutes.)

The highest rate of crossover: 22% of the viewers who watched MSNBC’s Super Tuesday: Decision 2020 also tuned into CNN’s America’s Choice 2020: Super Tuesday, and 17% of the CNN watchers also checked out the MSNBC coverage.

Fox News viewers were less likely to stray: only 2% also watched at least 10 minutes of CBS’ coverage, 2.3% tuned into the NBC broadcast and 2.4% checked out ABC’s broadcast of the results.

There were also notable differences in household tune-in for Super Tuesday coverage (on the heatmaps below, the darker the color, the more households in that DMA were tuning in).

Collectively, three of the top DMAs were Palm Springs, CA; West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL and Eureka, CA. Looking at the top DMAs for the specific broadcasts:

  • CNN’s America’s Choice 2020: Super Tuesday - Washington, DC (Hagrstwn), Palm Springs, CA and San Francisco-Oak-San Jose, CA
  • CBS News’ Election Special -- Super Tuesday: High Stakes - Presque Isle, ME; Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX and Huntsville-Decatur, AL.
  • Fox News’ Democracy 2020: Super Tuesday - Panama City, FL; Ft. Myers-Naples, FL and Tyler-Longview, TX
  • NBC News Decision 2020 Super Tuesday - Lake Charles, LA; Marquette, MI and Bend, OR
  • MSNBC’s Super Tuesday: Decision 2020 - Palm Springs, CA; Eureka, CA and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  • ABC’s Super Tuesday: Your Voice Your Vote 2020 - Jonesboro, AR; Meridian, MS and Jackson, TN