Fox News Channel bites CNN during indecisive aftermath
By Deborah D. McAdams -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/17/2000 7:00:00 PM
The 35-day presidential election drove Fox News Channel to new heights, pulled CNN out of a slump, breathed new life into MSNBC and elevated Comedy Central's fake news franchise to record levels.
The shrill debate over dimpled chads was especially sweet for Fox News Channel. It established itself as a real contender for CNN's title as No. 1 cable news net. If December numbers hold, Fox News could beat CNN for its first monthly victory. December-to-date (Dec. 12) in prime time, FNC is tracking a 1.6 compared to CNN's 1.4.
CNN peaked early in the fray with a 6.7 in one 15-minute period on election eve. The last time CNN reached a 6 was during the Columbine slaughter in April 1999. CNN's prime time (8-11 p.m.) for election night was a 4.7. Fox News Channel peaked later in the electoral epoch with a 4.1 for a 10-minute period, during the Nov. 26 vote verification.
In prime time for November, CNN averaged a 1.6, up 266% from last year. Fox News Channel did a 1.3 in prime, up 325%.
Fourth quarter-to-date (Oct. 2-Dec. 12), Fox News did a 1.2 in prime time, just one-tenth of a percent shy of CNN's 1.3. In households, CNN's number was 1 million (out of a potential 79 million) compared to FNC's 685,000 (out of a 56 million).
The Fox's biggest win came on Dec. 4 when the network trounced CNN in prime time, both in ratings and households. That night, Fox News did a 2.1/1.2 million compared to CNN's 1.2/1.0 million, with FNC's O'Reilly Factor taking out CNN's Larry King Live, 3.1 to 1.4. In the 35-day, post-election confusion, O'Reilly beat King 18 out of 24 Monday-Friday telecasts.
CNN is not rolling over, however. Stalwart correspondents emerged as network stars during the longest election. Starting today (Mon., Dec. 18), Wolf Blizter is getting his own newscast, Wolf Blitzer Reports, at 8 p.m., and Greta Van Susteren, a host on Burden of Proof, will take the helm of a new show at 8:30 p.m. Jeff Greenfield is being considered for the 10 p.m. spot, now occupied by NewsStand. MSNBC trailed the two top contenders after actually beating Fox News Channel and tying CNN in the third quarter total day. Numbers nonetheless jumped at MSNBC, from a 0.4 in 3Q prime to a 0.7 month-to-date. Even business-focused CNBC reversed a longtime slide in prime, from a 0.4 in 3Q to a 0.5 month-to-date.
Perhaps reflecting what American's really thought of the election, more people tuned into Comedy Central's coverage of the event than ever before. Ratings for The Daily Show, a satirical newscast drolly hosted by Jon Stewart, have nearly doubled from their 3Q average. Month-to-date, The Daily Show averaged a 0.9, compared to a 0.5 in 3Q. The momentum inspired Comedy Central to go live with the show Wednesday night after Vice President Al Gore's concession speech.
"We didn't want to have Gore give his speech and put the show on with no reference to it," said a Comedy Central spokesman. Wednesday's markedsecond live episode in TDS' history and easily the most spontaneous.
"We went live just once before, on election night. That was planned since January," he said. "This one they decided to do [Wednesday] morning."
Neither ratings nor casualties were available at press time.
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