Fox News further established itself as the dominant cable news network in 2004, outdrawing all of its competitors combined during prime time, extending its lead over CNN and claiming 11 of the 12 most-watched cable news programs for the year.
Even so, Fox News was not immune to the erosion in viewership suffered by all cable news outlets in 2004 compared with 2003, when the war in Iraq swelled cable news audiences.
According to data from Nielsen Media Research, for the year through Dec. 26, Fox averaged 913,000 viewers for total day and 1.666 million viewers in prime time. That’s down 11 percent for total day and 2 percent in prime time.
CNN averaged 479,000 viewers for total day and 855,000 viewers in prime time, down 28 percent and 22 percent respectively. Sister network CNN Headline News averaged 202,000 viewers for total day and 212,000 viewers in prime time, down 3 percent and 11 percent respectively.
CNN continues to note that it attracts a larger number of unique viewers than its chief rivals, averaging 63,175 per month for the year, 11 percent more than Fox News Channel (57,122 per month) and 32 percent more than MSNBC (47,873).
“Larry King Live,” which averaged 1.049 million viewers, was the only non-Fox show among the 12 most-watched cable news shows. But CNN’s once-invincible prime-time signature show slipping behind fifth-ranked “Special Report With Brit Hume,” which averaged 1.080 million viewers at 6 p.m. weekdays, when the size of the available audience is smaller.
MSNBC averaged 247,000 viewers for total day and 373,000 in prime time, down 23 percent and 16 percent respectively. The brightest spot: “Hardball With Chris Matthews” ended 2004 with an average audience of 492,000, up 20 percent year to year.
CNBC averaged 146,000 viewers for total day and 161,000 in prime time, off 21 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Repeats of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” which began appearing on CNBC at 7 p.m. weeknights Nov. 15, averaged 85,000 viewers, to rank below all of the NBC programming repurposed on CNBC throughout the year, including “The Apprentice Files” (110,000 viewers), “The Restaurant” (160,000 viewers) and “The Apprentice” (246,000 viewers).
Meanwhile, nonprime-time Olympics programming from Athens, Greece, averaged 550,000 viewers on CNBC and 644,000 viewers on MSNBC in September.
The four most popular cable news programs were “The O’ Reilly Factor” (2.413 million viewers), “Hannity & Colmes” (1.771 million), “Fox Report With Shepard Smith” (1.513 million) and “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren” (1.373 million).