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Thursday, February 21, 2008

LKL, SIU and the Ratings.

Larry King's lost touch with the people? Say it isn't so! Tuesday night brought us another hilarious LKL guest appearance by Jon Stewart.

CNN: Special Investigations Unit–Broken Government Scorched Earth
Miles O'Brien latest edition to the SIU series premieres on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 11 p.m. It will re-air on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. (Eastern)
Criss-crossing the country, O’Brien reports on examples of frustrating environmental policy failures, and savvy citizens working to find solutions. In Texas, O’Brien finds a company that has so far been able to evade toxic waste compliance by filing for bankruptcy, despite reporting corporate profits. In Iowa, O’Brien reports that despite broad, bipartisan political support and federal subsidies, the promises that corn ethanol would be a renewable fuel that would lessen the nation’s reliance on petroleum imports are being called into question. In the Badlands of South Dakota, O’Brien reveals the irony of two competing, multi-million-dollar federal programs – while one agency works to restore the endangered black-footed ferret from the brink of extinction, a rival government agency has hatched a plan that could kill them off again. Back in Washington, D.C., O’Brien investigates charges by global-warming scientists that their federal bosses have interfered with or silenced their scientific findings that do not support Bush administration policies.
Finally, O’Brien reports on innovative citizens, corporations and state governments that are working to bypass gridlock to find solutions to these challenges.
For more information on these and other environmental and technology stories, CNN’s science and technology team has launched a new blog with commentary on a range of issues at

That's it for me this week. Take a few minutes to check last week's ratings, always an interesting read. ~ Phebe


Four days of straight regular programming. Now you may or may not like the outcome, but as I have always said, don’t shoot the messenger. We stick to the facts, but every once in a while throw in a snarky comment – humor me, numbers can make you go blind.

But there are times you may wonder why I don’t comment on certain channel statements or charts that are issued. As an example, there is a chart that is published weekly, listing the Top 50 cable channels. We don’t comment on those. Why? Well, my role is what happened during the week in cable news/information in primetime for the “big three” and that published ranking takes into consideration all cable channel formats. It is not really fair to compare disparate formats all lumped into one list for primetime, and also based on the widest possible demographic – Total Audience 2+. The whole purpose of cable programming was to target audiences – one can get mass audience (well most of the time…) on broadcast television. Cable allows for specialized viewing and that is a good thing – just not a way to measure the success of a channel. And further, advertisers look at Adults 18-49 or Adults 25-54 in a block of programming basis called “dayparts,” or on a program basis – not on Monday – Sunday 8PM-11PM or Monday – Sunday, 24 hours called “Total Day.” The advertising industry just does not value channels that way. That channel chart is very different than the weekly Top 20 Cable Programs. However, based on Total Audience 2+, the program list is normally dominated with kids/teen/wrestling programming unless the primary or debate audiences are extremely high.

And just another FYI. This is a site for information primarily about CNN. You may see statements about the channel’s successes that I don’t mention. They tend to be promotional announcements or press releases. If they are not sourced directly to specific Nielsen audience figures that we can verify, we don’t print it. Many channels want to highlight their achievements and we are all for that. But unless I have the facts to back up what I write, I don’t write it. It doesn’t mean it isn’t correct, but I don’t write about anything unless I know exactly where it is sourced in Nielsen and is it a fair valuation by the advertising industry.

I have said in the past, I would be very happy to have additional demographic information so that I could give you a better idea of exactly what kind of audiences watch a channel – but that information is not available to us on any kind of consistent basis. So, we work with what we have, and it is sourced.

Viewership is ‘way up not only on cable, but on the way back for broadcast now that the writer’s strike is over, AMERICAN IDOL (referred to as the “death star” by the other nets – well, because it is with 29 million viewers even with the start of the “Final 24”) is in full swing and we have the “February “Sweep;” although much regular programming will be back on the air by March/April so it won’t help this month.

Fox News: 496,000*
CNN: 297,000*
MSNBC: 390,000*

CNN’s ELECTION CENTRAL is actually up +7% over last week even though it is still coming in third in the time period. And CNN had an up tick the week before last. Now it may not be a trend, but it shows there is interest in the hour. FOX is down -10% from the week before, and COUNTDOWN is up slightly, so there is some fluctuation in the time period.

Fox News: 436,000*
CNN: 355,000*
MSNBC: 214,000*

With so much political coverage in the 9PM time period the week before, LKL did have some audience erosion, as did Fox News. Hannity and Colmes did code their Tuesday program as an H&C even though everyone else coded “Election Coverage.” It would have raised their five day average to 478,000 versus the 4 day I posted – so I’ll let you decide. LKL was NOT coded on Tuesday during election coverage, so there is no way I can average in CNN’s time period killer audience of 1 million viewers into the average. Even though MSNBC brings up the rear, it is up slightly in audience over last week – probably due to regular programming and not having such an emphasis on politics that Dan Abrams doesn’t cover consistently.

Fox News: 420,000
CNN: 459,000
MSNBC: 230,000*

This is a tough call. It was very clear that Primary Coverage was on all channels last Tuesday, but only MSNBC coded their coverage as “Special” rather than their normal investigation block. Fox News and CNN both coded their programs as regular programming – GRETA and AC360, but it was primary results coverage. Do I count that as part of the regular program average? According to Nielsen, I should. Is it fair? No, it is not regular programming. YIKES! This is going to happen continually. So their averages are in the above numbers. AC360 beat GRETA on the basis of the huge Tuesday primary performance. The program lost to GRETA on Thursday’s NIU shooting coverage/New Orleans and Friday’s taped 360. Monday they were basically tied and Wednesday 360 far outperformed GRETA.

Courtesy: Google Images

CNN is still tops in Primary coverage and it will be very interesting to see how the debate does on Thursday (Feb 21, 2008). It is the highest viewership night in Television and there appears to be great interest in the two democratic candidates, so next week should be interesting along with the results from the Tuesday primaries. Oh, BTW, “the phrase that shall not be named” used on CNN now has the internet moniker of “TBPTOT.”

Just a little current information:

Courtesy: Google Images

Anderson Cooper was on Conan O’Brien Tuesday evening, February 19, 2008. Conan did take the time period against Kimmel, Ferguson and even Carson Daly’s late, late program (but not Letterman or Leno on at an earlier time period). But the numbers are so small at that hour for broadcast (big for cable), there isn’t much difference. It did a 1.7 Household Rating and a 6 Share – over 2 million viewers in broadcast terms.

*4 day average; Potomac Primary aired Tuesday on all channels.
**3 day average; Potomac Primary aired Tuesday; Dan Abrams does not air Fridays.
^Courtesy Nielsen Media Research; Adults 25-54 and other audience where noted; Live + Same Day (LS), Fast Track Nationals.

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Anonymous said...

Does this mean that only BOR topped
AC in the demo last week. I wonder if
things would have turned out differently
if 360 was not tape on Friday. Maybe
if CNN finds a way to chip at BOR at
8 pm that would make a difference
as well. I have always thought that
FNC benefits from the big audience
from BOR. There is likely to be holdover
for H & C and Greta Lets hope Campbell
Brown and help out with her new program.
when it starts in March

J said...

If you want to compare all programs in primetime (8PM-11PM) to each other, yes, it means that AC360 topped everyone but Billo. 360 does not have a solid track of performing well on Fridays, but yes, the taped program really hurt the week.

However, as I say in the post, coding special programming such as post debate and primary analysis as AC360 is what is helping AC360 increase in the weekly averages. A true measure that CNN programming is working against the competition is with regular programming, not specially coded programs that have audience spikes in them.

Bill O'Reilly and Hannity & Colmes are opinion driven programs which tend to have older and loyal audiences. GRETA has started to cover more than usual, very provocative crime cases in depth - straying a little from a mix of news and crime.

CNN programming hard news or programming that is not opinion based in a time period can have a difficult time overcoming the competition. That is not to say there isn't an audience for it - there is. But with hard news as your imprimatur, one needs to focus on the best product possible and market it the best way possible to drive tune-in.

There are plenty of Monday morning quarterbacks around who can try to divert your attention away from what is really important - the content and reaching the consumer. One can never ignore the competition, but chasing them shouldn't set the programming agenda. Yes, the old three "C's" in television - content, consumer and competition).

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more Ratings Guru.
Presentation is key and CNN should
not let others determine their product.
You are also dead on about the Monday
morning quarterbacks. I kinda of take
a lot of these sites with a grain of salt.
Too often they seem to have an agenda.