James Comey is a rock star of out-of-home TV viewing, Nielsen told TV critics at TCA today.

Decades after TV network execs started complaining that Nielsen does not count all those people watching their programming in bars, hotel rooms, airports, etc., Nielsen boasted to critics that it now is measuring that viewing.


And, in its presentation, the number-crunching company singled out the sacked FBI director for special mention. Specifically, Comey’s June 8 testimony before the Senate House Intelligence Committee, in which he denounced President Donald Trump as a liar five times by most counts.

Comey’s testimony got an out-of-home lift of 11% on broadcast TV and 17% on cable, among 18-49 year olds – the demo Nielsen decided to focus on, rather than the news demo, for purposes of its Comey discussion for reasons that were not explained, but we’re hoping has to do with him being considered for a role in an upcoming season of American Crime Story.

In its defense, Nielsen did mention that Comey’s hearing produced an 18% out-of-home viewing lift in adults 25-54 for CNN, above the testimony’s Live + 7 delivery. Nielsen called that spike “significant.”

Back in June, Nielsen said nearly 20 million viewers watched Comey across 10 television networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, HLN and MSNBC – but not including PBS or C-Span, so Nielsen’s numbers were incomplete.

During testimony, Comey detailed how Trump buttonholed him to press for an end to the FBI’s probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and told Comey he expected “loyalty” from him.

Back then, Nielsen said that, in its PBS and C-Span-less universe, the vast majority of Live + Same Day viewers watching Comey’s testimony – 13.2M — fell in the 55+ age bracket. Only 1.3M 18-34-year-olds tuned in.

TV news programming in general does well with out-of-home viewing. Nielsen reports viewers over the age of six spent an extra two hours and 20 minutes watching news programs, between January and May. But, to the surprise of no one, sports programming had the most to gain with the addition of out-of-home viewing. Between January and May, viewers over the age of six watched an extra two hours and 37 minutes, added to the 30 hours of sports viewing at home.

Nielsen execs also spent some talking to TV critics about the number of people who are watching programs up to 35 days after initial broadcast on various platforms. One critic wondered what it mattered if no one has figured out how to monetize it. Nielsen SVP Brian Fuhrer countered it allows networks so “show clients what they’re getting for free,” adding that all the talk of 35-day viewing has made advertisers more willing to discuss the 14-day window as a metric.