Patrons gathered for a live viewing of James B. Comey’s testimony at Union Pub in Washington.CreditJustin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

It was the testimony of a once-obscure former law enforcement official. Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. At 10 in the morning. On a workday.

Not your usual ratings gold.

No matter. Roughly 19.5 million Americans tuned in on Thursday to watch James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, unspool the tale of his awkward, unsettling and, at times, ethically questionable encounters with President Trump.

That is about the same number of people who watched Game 2 of this week’s N.B.A. finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Mr. Comey’s full audience was undoubtedly even bigger. The viewership figure released on Friday by the television tracking firm Nielsen did not include statistics for PBS, C-Span or the Fox broadcasting affiliates that carried the hearing live.

And it can be difficult to account for those who congregated at viewing parties across the country.

Many more people followed along with Mr. Comey on the radio or online, with numerous news sites livestreaming the proceedings. Twitter and Bloomberg News, for instance, said that their joint livestream reached an average of 129,000 viewers a minute.

Regular daytime programming, such as “The View” and “The Rachael Ray Show,” was pre-empted by special reports on all three broadcast networks, which aired Mr. Comey’s nearly three-hour appearance beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

ABC’s coverage, with an average of about 3.29 million viewers, was the highest-rated Comey broadcast over all; CBS, whose coverage began at 9 a.m., was a close second, with about 3.28 million viewers.

Fox News was the winner on cable news, drawing about 3.1 million people. CNN attracted 3.06 million viewers and beat its rivals in the 25-to-54 age demographic, which is important to advertisers, although the Comey hearing was aired commercial-free.

Mr. Trump, a ratings connoisseur, can still claim some bragging rights: His inauguration in January was seen by about 30.6 million television viewers.

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