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Convention Puts CNN on Top

Aug 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Cable news was the domain of Democratic National Convention coverage and CNN was the master for the first time in nearly three years.

According to data from Nielsen Media Research, CNN was the most-watched cable news network each of the four nights of the convention, a win streak it has not enjoyed since September 2001. Thursday night’s 8-11 p.m. (ET) average of 2.66 million viewers boosted CNN’s four-night average to 2.30 million viewers.

Fox News Channel can expect an improved performance during the Republican National Convention, which starts Aug. 30 in New York. Fox News averaged 2.51 million viewers Thursday, bringing its four-night average to 2.07 million. For the four nights, Fox News placed second among cable news networks. MSNBC also made a good showing, its best since the week of Saddam Hussein’s fall in April 2003. MSNBC averaged 1.59 million viewers Thursday for a four-night average of 1.30 million viewers.

Nielsen estimated that a combined 20.41 million people saw presidential candidate John Kerry’s acceptance speech Thursday on the cable networks and the Big 3 broadcasters, which limited their networks’ convention coverage to an hour each on only three of the four nights. The total number of viewers for Sen. Kerry’s speech was down slightly from the turnout of 20.64 million viewers for Al Gore’s acceptance speech in 2000.

Among the Big 3, CBS News finished the week with two head-to-head wins against its broadcast counterparts, with boosts on two nights from “CSI” repeats as lead-ins.

On Thursday, CBS News coverage won the 10 p.m. hour with an average of 5.55 million viewers (for a three-day average of 4.70 million). NBC followed with an average of 5.35 million at 10 p.m. and 4.68 million for the week. ABC averaged 4.75 million Thursday and 4.42 million for its three convention nights.

The audience for ABC News Now, the broadband/digital programming service that allowed ABC News to offer extensive convention coverage, hit record levels throughout the four-day Democratic gathering, according to data from AOL, one of the subscription-based partners through which ABC News Now is available.

(There is no way to tell how many ABC affiliates transmitted the same ABC News Now content on their local digital channels, as ABC News hopes to do permanently in order to aggregate a 24/7 news “channel.” However, Deb McDermott, the Young Broadcasting president who chairs the ABC affiliates advisory board, said a number of the stations have said the digital coverage “looks good.”)

AOL spokesman Bryan Hoyt said AOL tallied a record 210,000 live streams Monday night, 236,000 Tuesday, 220,000 Wednesday and 250,000 Thursday. Until Monday night, AOL’s most popular live streaming events were concerts by Josh Groban and Dave Matthews that broke the 100,000-stream mark.

Between live and on-demand options, Mr. Hoyt said, more than 1 million unique streams were logged for News Now throughout the week.

In addition, Mr. Hoyt said, about 60 percent of the AOL subscribers who viewed streams also took part in related Internet activities such as chats.

PBS averaged a 3.1 household rating on stations in 51 metered markets in prime time Thursday, bringing its four-night average to a 2.7 rating.