Thursday, October 2, 2014

What's going on with US cable news? Fox soars, MSNBC tanks

In one sense, tracking cable news program ratings is predictable - at the top.  The ratings for the third quarter of the 2013-2014 season is out.  Despite a fairly heavy news load (war and conflict in the Ukraine, Gaza/Israel, Iraq/Syria (ISIS/ISIL), saber-rattling by Russia and China, a number of celebrity deaths (Robin Williams, Joan Rivers), and new and continuing scandals in Washington, the border crossings, Ferguson MO, to name just a few) ratings for most of the cable news networks continue their freefall.
MSNBC saw prime-time average ratings drop 2 percent from the same period last year, but the really bad news is that viewing in the key 25-54 demo dropped 21% over the same time frame.  Ratings for its prime-time line-up experienced all-time lows in the key demo.  Which meant that reruns of Shark Tank on CNBC beat out every MSNBC prime-time show for the quarter.  The rest of MSNBC's programs didn't help much.  Total Day viewing was the lowest since 2007, falling 12% from the previous year.  The drop-off was worse in the adult 25-54 demo, where MSNBC lost a quarter of its total day audience from last year's performance.
CNN's new mix of news and reality/documentary programs experienced modest gains in prime-time viewing from the previous year (up 2% among all adults, and up 4% among adults (23-54).  Despite an initial modest rating spike for Anderson Cooper's live reporting from Ferguson, the news show fell back to its normal mediocre numbers, letting CNN's Sixties documentary series beat it out for the channel's most-watched show of the quarter.
The exception is Fox News Channel, which continued its domination of cable news.  This report marks FNC's 51st consecutive at the top of cable news channels ratings, and it did so with 12% increases in both total adult and adult 25-54 viewing.  This made Fox News not only the top cable news channel, but the most-watched of all cable channels (beating both USA and ESPN).
Another way of looking at the state of cable news is to consider each show's performance. Looking at individual shows, the 14 highest-rated were on Fox News Channel. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show was their top performer, coming in at 15, and Anderson Cooper came in at 18th, and Nancy Grace made an appearance for HLN at #36.

Sources -  Fox News Nabs Historic Cable Ratings Victory, The Hollywood Reporter
The Top Cable News Shows in Q3 were...,  TVNewser