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Big Stories Bolster Cable News Ratings

Apr 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A surfeit of big news meant good news for the cable news channels in the first quarter of 2007, when all posted increases in viewership and demographic performance.

Fueled by the escalating debate on the war in Iraq, a change of power on Capitol Hill, the early start to the 2008 presidential campaign, a new Bush Administration political scandal and other stories, MSNBC and CNN posted double-digit increases in viewership.

Fox News Channel stemmed the erosion that has nibbled at it in recent quarters and once again drew more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined. It was the 21st consecutive quarter in which Fox has ranked No. 1, also finishing as the fourth most-popular network in all cable (behind USA Network, TNT and TBS), up from eighth in the first quarter of 2006.

Fox claimed 13 of the top 15 cable news shows and eight of the top 10 cable news shows among the 25- to 54-year-old demographic for which advertisers in news programming pay top dollar.

Perennial cable news king “The O’Reilly Factor” finished first for Fox with an average 2.4 million viewers, up 5 percent year-to-year, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

CNN broke into the top 15 with “Larry King Live” (No. 7 with 1.1 million viewers, an increase of 12 percent) and “Lou Dobbs Tonight” (No. 15 with 881,000 viewers, an increase of 32 percent).

MSNBC’s most-watched show was “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” with 713,000 viewers, an increase of 76 percent.

“Nancy Grace” continued to rank as CNN Headline News’ most-watched show with 648,000 viewers, an increase of 12 percent.

CNBC’s most-watched show was the encore of NBC hit “Deal or No Deal” with an average 831,000 viewers.

In the 6-9 a.m. timeslot, where CNN is changing co-anchors in a week, “Fox & Friends” was down 12 percent year-to-year but still No. 1 with 696,000 viewers. CNN’s “American Morning” was down 6 percent year-to-year to 372,000 viewers. Closing in on “American Morning,” “Imus in the Morning” on MSNBC was up 39 percent to 361,000 viewers. Headline News’ “Robin & Co” dropped 7 percent to 199,000 viewers. CNBC’s “Squawk Box” grew 31 percent to 151,000 viewers.

In another key daypart, 4-6 p.m. weekdays, Fox’s “Your World With Neil Cavuto” was flat with 903,000 viewers and “Big Story” was down 5 percent to 987,000 viewers, while the competing two hours of CNN’s “Situation Room” were up 24 percent and 19 percent to 665,000 and 649,000 viewers, respectively.

MSNBC’s “Tucker Carlson” at 4 p.m. was up 33 percent to 278,000 viewers. At 5 p.m., “Hardball With Chris Matthews” was up 46 percent to 418,000 viewers.

On CNBC, “Closing Bell” at 4 p.m. was down 5 percent to 302,000, while “Kudlow & Co.” at 5 p.m. was up 10 percent to 299,000 viewers.

Overall, the Nielsen data show these Monday-through-Sunday averages:

  • Fox News Channel’s total-day viewership was up 1 percent to an average 863,000 viewers, 256,000 of them in the 25 to 54 demo, an increase of 12 percent. Prime time was up 8 percent to 1.6 million viewers, 390,000 of them in the demo, an increase of 19 percent.
  • CNN’s total-day was up 15 percent to 503,000 viewers, 180,000 of them in the demo, an increase of 32 percent. Prime time was up 10 percent to 763,000 viewers, 238,000 in the demo, an increase of 24 percent.
  • MSNBC’s total-day rose 34 percent to 330,000 viewers, 136,000 of them in the demo, an increase of 36 percent. Prime time was up 40 percent to 497,000 viewers, 196,000 in the demo, an increase of 29 percent.
  • CNN Headline News’ total-day was up 14 percent to 255,000 viewers, 111,000 in the demo, an increase of 17 percent. Prime time was up 17 percent to 404,000 viewers, 156,000 of them in the demo, an increase of 28 percent.
  • CNBC’s total-day was up 46 percent to 231 viewers, 92,000 of them in the demo, an increase of 64 percent. Prime time was up 82 percent to 278,000 viewers, 114,000 in the demo, an increase of 52 percent.