“Fox News will mark 2010 as one of the best years since the network’s launch in 1996. The network posted powerful ratings, beating the combined ratings of CNN and MSNBC and marking the ninth straight year as cable’s top news network.
According to Nielsen, the top five cable news programs in terms of total viewers and viewers 25-54 (the metric used by advertisers and considered the most important by networks) were all on Fox: The O’Reilly Factor (781,000 viewers 25-54); Hannity (585,000); Glenn Beck (572,000); On the Record (481,000); and The O’Reilly Factor repeat (447,000).”
MSNBC beat CNN for the second straight year among viewers 25-54, and for the first time beat CNN among total primetime viewers as well. The numbers for CNN are truly abysmal, not only compared to Fox and MSNBC, but compared to its own numbers of a year ago. Total primetime viewers of CNN fell by 34 percent compared to 2009.
However, Fox viewership fell as well, declining 7 percent in primetime and 8 percent among primetime viewers in the 25-54 demographic. And to put things in some perspective, “The O’Reilly Factor” drew an average of 3.2 million viewers a night. That makes him the king of cable news talk, but well behind network news shows. (For the week of Dec. 20, NBC averaged 9.5 million viewers a night, ABC averaged 8 million a night and CBS averaged 6.2 million).
With roughly 1 percent of America watching, his numbers also put him well behind cable competitors such as his show’s spiritual cousin, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Spongebob Squarepants on Nickelodeon, both of which often pull 5 million or more viewers.
In addition, “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert both regularly outdraw O’Reilly among the younger demographic sought by advertisers. In fact, it’s striking how old the O’Reilly audience skews (3.2 million average audience, just 781,000 of them between 25 and 54.)
All that said, however, there’s no question of Fox News’ success within its narrow field, nor about the profitability of its approach.
– Jay Bookman