Fox News Channel still has a robust grip on the lead in the cable news competition, but CNN Headline is shaking up things in the middle of the pack, while CNBC is suffering double-digit ratings erosion, according to recent Nielsen Media Research ratings data.
Headline News, which has outperformed MSNBC for total-day viewership since December, unleashed a new weeknight lineup in mid-February. Led by record-setting new show “Nancy Grace,” Headline’s prime time took over the third-place spot traditionally occupied by MSNBC for the month of March.
“Nancy Grace,” which airs weeknights at 8 p.m. (ET), not only ranks as Headline’s most-watched show ever, but its average of 518,000 total viewers contributed to a 66 percent prime-time increase for the network in March, compared with March 2004, and a 155 percent increase for the time slot versus a year ago.
The big audience gainer at Fox was “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren,” which increased its viewership in first quarter 2005 by 30 percent compared with the same frame last year.
CNN’s most-watched program, “Larry King Live,” averaged 1.05 million viewers for the quarter, down 5 percent year to year, while “Anderson Cooper 360%BA;’s” audience grew 22 percent year to year to an average 586,000 in the first quarter.
In prime time Monday through Friday in March, Fox racked up an average of 1.906 million viewers, a year-to-year increase of 9 percent. CNN was second with 992,000, up 10 percent from March 2004. Headline’s prime-time average was 337,000, up 66 percent year to year. MSNBC averaged 328,000, up 8 percent. Sister channel CNBC’s prime time dropped 38 percent year to year to an average of 132,000 viewers.
In prime time Monday through Friday for the first quarter, Fox averaged 1.89 million viewers (up 14 percent year to year), followed by CNN with 896,000 viewers (down 1 percent year to year), MSNBC with 319,000 viewers (down 4 percent), Headline News with 261,000 (23 percent) and CNBC with 124,000 (down 40 percent).
For total day in the first quarter, Fox led with an average 884,000 viewers (up 7 percent year to year), followed by CNN with 471,000 viewers (up 3 percent), Headline with 232,000 (up 21 percent), MSNBC with 219,000 (down 6 percent), and CNBC with 132,000 (down 26 percent).