CNN chief Jeff Zucker’s claim he’d struck the right balance with George Zimmerman trial coverage rings true with viewers, if not TV critics, this week: his network won Monday primetime among 25-54 year-olds who are the currency of news programming ad sales with programs featuring exclusive interviews with two key figures in the trial. At 9 PM, Piers Morgan Live was cable news’ top-rated programming in the demo. The show featured Morgan’s interview with Rachel Jeantel — the last person to speak to unarmed teen Trayvon Martin before Zimmerman killed him with a shot to the heart. An average of 678,000 viewers in the age bracket watched her tell Morgan that Martin feared Zimmerman was following him because he “might be a rapist.” That’s Morgan’s biggest audience of that age since his show launched in ’11. (FNC competitor Hannity logged 424,000 viewers in the demo and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow snared 263,000).
At 10 PM, Anderson Cooper’s exclusive interview with juror B37 on AC360 scored cable news the second biggest haul of the night in the demo. An average of 576,000 viewers heard her tell Cooper she thought Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” during the incident that led to Martin’s death. Cooper interviewed the juror at 8 PM as well, averaging 474,000 viewers in the key age group, to finish just behind Bill O’Reilly’s 478,000.