By James Hibberd
Updated May 02, 2011 at 07:43 PM EDT
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Sunday night’s stunning and historic announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. military operation boosted CNN to outperform rivals.

CNN emerged as the most-watched cable news network, peaking at 7.8 million viewers during the 11 p.m. hour when President Obama officially announced bin Laden’s death. Fox News delivered 4.8 million and MSNBC had 2.3 million. That means about 15 million tuned in to the cable news networks for the announcement, with millions more watching on the broadcast networks (whose final numbers will not be available until tomorrow) and online.

During a five-hour block of continuous coverage of the news, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., CNN averaged 4.1 million viewers to 2.8 million for Fox News and 1.6 million for MSNBC. This marked CNN’s best performance in these hours since Election Night 2008.

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