Fox News Channel continued its winning ways in April, its war coverage attracting droves of viewers and helping silence critics who said the net couldn't handle hard news. Now, with breaking news giving way to post-war analysis and punditry—Fox's bread and butter—the network is still riding high.
In April, Fox registered a 3.3 prime time rating, besting its cable news rivals as well as all other cable networks. Throughout the month, though, ratings cooled off from a high of 4.4 for the first week to a 2.2 the last week. But that's still a full point above its 1.2 prime time rating a year ago.
"The brilliance of Fox is how they morph," said Lifetime's research chief and TV historian Tim Brooks.
Fox is holding viewers, while its competitors hemorrhage their war spoils.
CNN also recorded robust numbers for April, a 2.1 prime time average, up 133% from last year. By the final week in April, though, CNN had settled to a 1.0, just a touch higher than its average a year ago. Since jettisoning two of its softer shows Talk Back Live and Connie Chung Tonight during the war, CNN has emerged with more straight-news shows.
MSNBC, after riding high early on, has fallen back. The net grabbed a 1.2 prime time average for April, compared with a 0.4 a year ago. But the gains are deceiving. Initially, war coverage sparked the floundering channel, with a 1.6 average in prime for the first two weeks of April. By the final week, though, it had crashed to a 0.5.
Among entertainment channels, TNT was tops with a 2.1 average in prime, up 24% from last year. A sign of a shift though: TNT beat out Fox News to claim the top spot in the final week of April (a 2.4 average for TNT compared with 2.2 for Fox).
Other general-entertainment networks, however, slipped in April. Lifetime's woes continued, ratings falling 23% to a 1.7 average. USA Network was off 18% to a 1.4, and TBS Superstation plunged 24% to a 1.3 prime time average.
A few cable networks enjoyed robust year-to-year growth. ESPN's ratings jumped nearly 40% to a 1.1 rating, and Hallmark Channel increased viewership 60% to a 0.8 average. VH1 notched a 0.5 rating, up 67%.