Thursday, December 17, 2009

CNN Also-Ran Among Desired Prime-Time News Network Viewers

CNNImage via Wikipedia
According to a story by Bill Carter in today's The New York Times, viewers ages 25 to 54, the most sought-after demographic group by advertisers, prefer the prime-time opinionated offerings of Fox News Channel and MSNBC to CNN.

Not only does prime-time programming on CNN ("Crashing News Network") lag behind first-place Fox and MSNBC, but also has a smaller prime-time audience than its own sister network HLN (one-time "Headline News"). Among the targeted  age group, Fox averages 699,000 weeknight prime-time viewers to 307,000 on MSNBC and 297,000 on CNN ("Competitive Not Now"). In recent months, CNN star Anderson Cooper's show has lost in the ratings to a rerun of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, meaning that viewers would rather watch a recycled rant from Keith than go "360" with Anderson.

If it's any consolation, CNN still whips MSNBC in the ratings at all other hours of the day, with  "American Morning," for example, besting MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Also, the average number of CNN viewers in 2009 exceeds its number of viewers in 2006 or 2007.

"TUOL" is surprised that even news network ratings champ Fox, which saw a 10 percent boost in its prime-time ratings in 2009, still draws a paltry fewer than 700,000 viewers nationwide.  Perhaps the cable news honchos should consider adding either the prefix "CSI-" or "Law & Order:" to their program titles.

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  1. It seems paradoxical that as our wired world has made hard news more accessible, interest in it has waned.

    As you point out, even the leading Fox network draws fewer than 700,000 viewers nationwide. According to Wikipedia's Dec. 17/09 updated listing, the current population of the U.S. is 308,177,000. Allowing for variables which reduce the total potential national viewing audience, a comparison is still striking.

    The statistics in your post suggest that the targeted TV demographic is tuning in to what they want to hear, to like minds. One wonders if a similar shift is happening among the many who get their news online.

    This isn't good for independent thinking, for objective media journalism, or for democracy.

  2. Viewers tuned into Cronkite or Huntley & Brinkley for information. Now, viewers look to O'Reilly or Olbermann for validation of the opinions they already hold. Most of my journalism students look to the Internet for their news.

  3. I began this comment intending to ask if you believe that the Internet delivers substantive news, but the answer is probably that it depends upon where one seeks it out online. The primary delivery system of news and information has irrevocably changed to the Internet. It'll be interesting to see how television in general adapts over the next decade.