For each of the three major news networks in 2011, there was good news and bad news, depending on how you spin it.
Fox News could take comfort that it remains the dominant ratings leader, drawing more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined both during the entire day and prime time. It averaged 1.1 million total day and 1.9 million viewers each night. Its top 11 shows all exceeded 1 million viewers each, a figure no CNN or MSNBC program achieved. It has remained the news leader for the past decade.
Ratings, however, were down about 8 percent year over year and 14 percent in the 25 to 54 year old demographic during prime time and 5 percent overall. (Its 2010 numbers were boosted by the mid-term elections and will likely go up again during the 2012 presidential election year.)
It lost viewers at the 5 p.m. hour, where “The Five” replaced Glenn Beck mid year but the network said advertisers are more welcoming to the new show than Beck.
Atlanta-based CNN bounced back from a dismal 2010 and gained 17 percent in total viewers and an impressive 29 percent among 25 to 54 year olds, fueled by big international news stories such as the Arab Spring, the Japanese earthquake and Osama bin Laden’s death. At night, CNN is still third behind MSNBC, which won the 25-to-54 demo race for a third year in a row, but edged back to second total day.
At 9 p.m., CNN brought in Piers Morgan, who improved upon Larry King’s last-year numbers, and moved Anderson Cooper to 8 p.m. (with a repeat at 10 p.m.) after a short-lived effort with Eliot Spitzer. CNN also added Erin Burnett in the fall at 7 p.m.. And in 2012, Soledad O’Brien returns to mornings, where CNN lags behind “Morning Joe” on MSNBC as well as “Fox and Friends.”
But outside of 2010, CNN’s 2011 performance was still its second worst in 15 years, according to data collected by tvbythenumbers.com. During primetime, the network averaged 689,000 viewers, up from 590,000 in 2010 but way behind the 1.3 million in 2008.
Despite losing Keith Olbermann, MSNBC survived in prime time, gaining two percent year over year and averaging 775,000 viewers a night, though it was down 11 percent in Olbermann’s spot.
Atlanta-based HLN’s numbers were up 20 percent, boosted heavily by Casey Anthony coverage. Interestingly, Nancy Grace’s overall raitngs were up 7 percent but among 25 to 54 year olds, it actually dropped 19 percent, according to data collected by TVNewser.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk