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CNN doubles prime-time viewership with Haiti coverage, but Fox News still on top [updated]

January 21, 2010 | 12:42 pm

Anderson Cooper

The resources CNN poured into covering the destruction in Haiti in the last week helped the cable news channel nearly double its average viewership this year and regain its advantage over MSNBC in the key 25-to-54 demographic. But it wasn’t enough to pull past top-rated Fox News, which also saw its audience grow, even though it devoted a far smaller share of prime time to covering the earthquake that hit Haiti Jan. 12.

Lifted in part by feverish interest in the Massachusetts Senate race, Fox News averaged 2.97 million viewers in prime time from Jan. 13 through Jan. 19. That was 56% more than it averaged in prime time this year through Jan. 12, according to Nielsen.

CNN pulled in 1.26 million viewers in prime time in the first full week of its Haiti coverage, up 95% over its viewership earlier this year. And the network enjoyed a 135% advantage over MSNBC in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic in prime time with its shows anchored by hosts Campbell Brown, Larry King and Anderson Cooper. That was a turnabout from December, when MSNBC had 18% more viewers that age in prime time than CNN.

MSNBC drew 762,000 total viewers for the week in prime time, 24% more than its average audience earlier this year of 615,000.

Fox News in particular was helped by the massive audience it attracted Tuesday night for its coverage of the special election held to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The cable news network drew 6.2 million viewers, its biggest prime-time viewership since the 2008 presidential election night. During the 6 p.m. PST hour, when the race was called, a record 6.8 million people tuned in to host Sean Hannity’s program. CNN had 1.5 million viewers in prime time that night and MSNBC had 1.14 million viewers.

[Updated at 1:20 p.m.: Haiti coverage also lifted ratings for the cable news networks across the total day of programming. Fox News -- which placed a close second behind USA last week as the most-watched basic-cable network in prime time and fourth in total day -- averaged 1.5 million viewers across all programming from Jan. 13 to Jan. 19, a 30% spike over earlier this year. CNN was up 85% to 875,000 viewers and MSNBC grew 17% to 399,000.)

Hemmer Haiti

-- Matea Gold

Top photo: CNN anchor Anderson Cooper has been in Haiti all week. Credit: CNN

Bottom photo: Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer reporting from Port-au-Prince. Credit: Fox News

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