Fox News hits records, MSNBC beats CNN with opinion shows
In the first few months of the Obama administration, viewers on the right and left seemed to crave opinion. But hard news? Maybe not so much.
That's the conclusion one could draw from the second-quarter cable ratings released Tuesday, which showed MSNBC beating CNN for the first time ever in weekday prime time, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. No. 1-rated Fox News Channel, meanwhile, piled up one of its best quarters ever, with prime time ratings soaring by 34%.
The action during 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. is especially significant, because that's where MSNBC and Fox show hard-boiled political shows aimed at partisan viewers. At MSNBC, that means "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" and "The Rachel Maddow Show" for liberals; at Fox, "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity" hold forth for those with conservative (and in the case of Sean Hannity, stridently anti-Obama) views. CNN's Anderson Cooper and Larry King mostly avoid explicit editorializing and stick to developing stories and interviews during the evening hours.
Chasing after liberal viewers seems to have helped MSNBC in its bid to take the No. 2 spot behind Fox News. For the quarter, MSNBC slipped past CNN in weekday prime time (946,000 viewers vs. 939,000). However, Fox News, evidently riding a surge of anti-Obama sentiment among its core fan base, dominated both of its rivals. On a daily prime time basis (including weekends), Fox averaged 2.1 million total viewers, more than doubling the combined totals of CNN (862,000) and MSNBC (790,000).
During the total day, Fox increased its lead over CNN (1.2 million average vs. 598,000), while MSNBC was a distant No. 3 (392,000).
For its part, CNN pointed out that this month was its most-watched June ever, no doubt helped along by the Iran protests and the death of Michael Jackson.
-- Scott Collins