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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A visit from the Ratings Guru

Just another average week in primetime cable news

Dec. 10-14, 2007 (if we don’t count Friday…Whew…

Let’s be realistic – cable news audiences are pretty small. Even the leader Bill O’Reilly only translates on his best days to a 2 Household Rating in the broadcast world, and that is for 2+ with a tremendous amount of audience 55+ (advertisers typically don’t want that audience…sorry). The political race as well as some news events have started to make a difference as the broadcast network news programs have had some of their highest audience levels all year in the past three weeks. Since viewers expect that kind of coverage in cable news, it really hasn’t translated directly into the cable news increases in those same last weeks – other than when an evening debate airs.

What was very interesting is that Fox News took top honors in the airing of the final Republican debate last week during the day and CNN led the next day with the Democratic debate with the same moderator. Was it a fair contest? Somewhat. For the democratic debate (Thursday), MSNBC was carrying the Major League Baseball Drug Enhancement press conference but aired the debate an hour later and came in with slightly less audience than they had with the Republican debate the day before. I know, read and go blind…but it is good that CNN beat Fox News in 2+, regardless of programming and time period competition.

I won’t give you percent increases or decreases because the prior week had so many program changes and disruptions to the regular program sked. Interestingly, ESPN’s football on Monday night is usually a factor in hurting news viewership, wasn’t last week – so much for the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Monday cable news performances were fairly good, but nothing that translates the loss of over 4 million viewers to Monday Night Football on ESPN.

So let’s look at last week:^

Fox News: 436,000
CNN: 235,000
MSNBC: 257,000

Viewers turned out all channels on Friday, hurting everyone’s week average – Christmas parties or shopping??? Billo was down -12% from the prior week as his program was the least affected by program changes. And as typical, his weakest night was Friday. OUT IN THE OPEN had a pretty up week until they hit Friday and lost almost 100,000 viewers from the previous days of last week. I can’t compare it to prior week because that week it only aired three times. COUNTDOWN on MSNBC also hit the skids on Friday, 100,000 viewers off from peak audiences on Monday and Thursday.

Fox News: 389,000
CNN: 266,000
MSNBC: 173,000*

Hannity & Colmes were up slightly from the week before, LKL was down slightly - again, repeats and program interruptions affected the performance the week prior to last week – but this past Friday night was just a ratings killer for the talk-master – his Christmas song show was anywhere from 150 to 200,000 viewers OFF of his Monday – Thursday performances. Not much love out there for Josh Groban, et all – YIKES! Even LKL’s repeat of Brad Pitt in New Orleans did extremely well on Tuesday. Dan Abrams bounced back from the week prior, but again, only airs on four days.

Fox News: 364,000
CNN: 241,000
MSNBC: 193,000

Yes, AC360 is down last week from the week before (CNN HEROES week when it only aired three times). Back for a full five days, it was the Friday performance that just killed the week average – averaging 100,000 viewers off from Monday – Thursday’s performances. People just deserted television on Friday night, but the cable news channels really suffered. And with virtually no decent lead-in from LKL’s Christmas program, 360 delivered the same audience as its lead-in, which is great, but the ratings performance was extremely sub-par (146,000 viewers – ouch...). This, unfortunately, was the night CNN decided to run the 60 Minutes piece on the endangered MOUNTAIN GORILLAS. Maybe with the promotion – and that 60 MINUTES had delivered such a huge audience the prior Sunday, viewers tuned out. The four day average without the 360 Friday program would have been 265,000 – but no one in the industry would accept eliminating a first run program from the average – it was a legit program night. MSNBC’s investigations/doc block was up over the week before, but had audience erosion with each night this past week.

And to answer an anticipated question – were the broadcast networks down over typical Friday night ratings performance too? Nope, not really. They were in repeats and certainly down from the November Sweeps – but not that much.

We’ll see you next week – and let me know if you have any questions.

*4 day average applied to 5 days; Dan Abrams only airs 4 days.
^Courtesy Nielsen Media Research; Adults 25-54 LIVE + SAME DAY (LS) Fast Track Nationals.

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