Fox News grabs eyeballs, CNN stops its slide

Jul 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Fox News Channel’s viewership continues to grow, almost without exception, at a double-digit pace, while CNN seems to be turning a corner on its ratings erosion.
In the second quarter, Fox News’ prime-time lineup showed year-to-year increases of 40 percent in ratings (an average 0.7 Nielsen Media research rating) and 83 percent in households (an average of 436,000 homes) but total viewership (an average of 535,000 viewers) was down 2 percent. For total day, Fox’s ratings (0.3) were flat year to year, but the channel was up 61 percent in households (213,000 homes) and 62 percent in total viewers (245,000).
For CNN, which spent last year swimming against a tide of stories reporting dramatic ratings losses, comparisons of second-quarter 2001 with second-quarter 2000 were not the same exercise in pain. Indeed, in prime time year to year, CNN’s ratings (0.6) were flat, households (483,000) were up 12 percent and total viewers (565,000) were up 11 percent. For total day, CNN was flat in ratings (0.3) and households (254,000) and down 2 percent in total viewers (283,000).
Particularly interesting because Fox News has worked relentlessly to create a ratings rivalry between the two networks’ big-draw shows-even though they don’t compete directly-are the first-quarter-to-second-quarter comparisons for “The O’Reilly Factor” (which averaged a 1.5 rating and 1.114 million viewers in the first quarter and a 1.1 and 873,000 viewers in the second quarter) and “Larry King Live” (a 1.1 and 1.097 million viewers in the first quarter and a 0.9 and 926,000 viewers in the second quarter).
Indeed, “Larry King” was on a modest uptick in June, tying “O’Reilly” in ratings (an average 1.1 each) and leading in total viewers with an average of 1.030 million for the month for “Larry King” and an average 868,000 for “O’Reilly.” June to June, “Larry King” notched improvements of 9 percent in households and 6 percent in viewers, while “O’Reilly” improved 127 percent and 126 percent, respectively.
CNN also can point to a hopeful trend in another key programming area. “Moneyline” has narrowed the gap since Lou Dobbs returned to CNN, although CNBC’s “Business Center” beat CNN’s “Moneyline” by 40 percent in households in the hour in which the two shows went head-to-head during the second quarter.
In the seven weeks before Mr. Dobbs reclaimed his flagship show, “Moneyline” had an average of 59 percent fewer viewers than “Business Center” in the hour in which they compete directly. Over the first seven weeks with Mr. Dobbs at the helm, that gap has been cut to an average 21 percent advantage for “Business Center.”
Put another way, in Mr. Dobbs’ first seven weeks, “Moneyline” added 19,000 viewers and “Business Center’s” competing hour lost 47,000 compared to the previous seven weeks.
For what it calls “Business Day,” the weekday hours of 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), during the second quarter, CNBC averaged a 0.4 rating and 304,000 homes, while CNN averaged a 0.3 and 257,000 homes.
Meanwhile, MSNBC continues to focus on the relative youthfulness of its audience (an average age of 51 for the total day during the second quarter) compared with the audiences of Fox (average age 56) and CNN (58). In prime time, MSNBC viewers’ average age was 50, while Fox’s rose to 59 and CNN’s rose to 61.
While MSNBC remains in third place in the news-network race, it posted year-to-year growth for the second quarter for total day, 0.3 rating (flat), 177,000 homes (up 26 percent) and 207,000 viewers (up 25 percent), and for prime time, 0.4 rating (flat), 247,000 homes (up 26 percent) and 300,000 total viewers (up 28 percent).