Primetime Cable News Networks Drawing Older Audiences
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/20/2012 11:36:37 AM
Fox News Channel was still the top dog, averaging about 6.4 million viewers, more than the other three networks combined. MSNBC averaged 2.6 million viewers, CNN averaged 1.6 million viewers and HLN averaged 1.3 million viewers.
Looking at the numbers, some specific network-by-network data can be isolated:
- Between 70%-80% of every show's audience is 55 years or older, and the median age audience for almost every show is close to 65.
- Of The O'Reilly Factor's 2.8 million nightly viewers from 8-9 p.m., 2.2 million of them are 55-plus. Among Hannity's 2 million nightly viewers, 1.5 million of them are 55-plus. And among the 1.6 million On the Record with Greta Van Susteren viewers, 1.2 million of them are 55-plus.
- While the total number of viewers is lower for the other networks, the percentages are similar. Among Piers Morgan Tonight's 550,000 viewers, 364,000 are 55-plus; among Anderson Cooper 360's 594,000 viewers, 363,000 are 55-plus; among Last Word with Larry O'Donnell's 855,000 viewers, 617,000 are 55-plus; among The Rachel Maddow Show's 949,000 viewers, 659,000 are 55-plus; and among Nancy Grace's 503,000 viewers, 323,000 are 55-plus.
- The three Fox News Channel shows, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, are the only ones that draw more than a million viewers per night, drawing 2.8 million, 2 million and 1.6 million viewers, respectively.
- Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN has averaged only 15,000 fewer viewers per night than its predecessor Larry King Live -- 550,000 per night compared to 565,000 for King.
- CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 at 10 p.m. is slipping. Its viewership is down 17% over the past year, falling to 594,000 per night from 729,000 viewers.
- The Rachel Maddow Show is tops at MSNBC, averaging 949,000 viewers per night.
- Before HLN canceled the show in December 2011, The Joy Behar Show was averaging 422,000 viewers, up 50,000 over the previous year.
- MSNBC swapping the time periods of Last Word with Larry O'Donnell, which previously aired at 8 p.m., and The Ed Show, which previously aired at 10 p.m., did nothing to improve their respective viewership. O'Donnell's viewership is down about 80,000 per night, while The Ed Show's viewership is down about 20,000. And both shows have seen the median age of their audiences go up about two years.
- The three CNN news shows from 8-11 p.m. cumulatively have lost about 250,000 viewers from about 1.9 million per night to 1.65 million viewers per night, about an 18% decline over the past year. The three Fox News Channel shows cumulatively have lost 400,000 viewers from 6.8 million to 6.4 million, down about 6%. The MSNBC shows cumulatively have lost about 140,000 viewers, down about 5%. HLN has lost about 60,000 viewers, a decline of less than 1%. But clearly Fox News Channel is still drawing such a mass audience that its decline in viewership matters much less to it than the declines by the other networks.
- None of the cable news networks in primetime have seen much of a major boost in ratings from the presidential campaigns thus far, although that could change following the conventions when the VP candidates are chosen and the back-and-forth intensifies as November approaches. But through June, the election has not been of much help in drawing more viewers.
"I think for a political season, cable ratings have been surprisingly sluggish," says Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media. "This is one of the few times that the cable networks know a big event is coming and can plan for it with programming and yet viewers seem to be going elsewhere."
In fact, on July 18, Fox News Channel got a boost in viewership, not from a presidential candidate appearing, but for an exclusive interview Sean Hannity conducted with George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guy charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012.
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