On Thursday late afternoon/early evening cable news coverage lifted virtually all cable news networks over their viewing averages, according to Nielsen Media Research -- 3.2 million viewers for CNN; 2.3 million for Fox News; and 1.1 million for MSNBC.
CNN grabbed a high 3.9 million with "Larry King Live" at 9 p.m., and Fox News got to 3.4 million with its Shepard Smith-anchored 8 p.m. show.
Broadcast news shows in prime time also posted better numbers. At 9 p.m. ABC's "20/20: Michael Jackson" took in 5.7 million viewers and NBC's special "Dateline: Michael Jackson" got to 5.2 million viewers.
The best numbers for Jackson came from that older-skewing network, CBS, with a 10 p.m. Jackson special posting 7.7 million viewers, led in at 9 p.m. with a "CSI" repeat which took in 8.5 million viewers.
Other audience metrics also looked good for CBS. Among 18-49 viewers, CBS posted the best Jackson results -- a 2.0 rating /6 share. CBS tied ABC's Jackson special among younger viewers, with a 1.3/4 rating among 18-34 viewers.
What does this say?
That some of the old rules of television still are in force, that lead-in and lead-out programming matter -- especially at CBS. Roll in the fact that no network -- broadcast or cable -- had much time to prepare for the evening, in terms of tune-in promotion for viewers.
The big sudden story also took out much of the DVR factor, with viewers improvising, perhaps watching fewer time-shifted shows.
Viewers had to go old school to find what they needed, turning on some old-fashioned live TV.