After a sizable drop in primetime viewership and in the
adults 25-54 "news demo" ratings in the first quarter, Fox News Channel is
rebounding nicely in the second quarter, as is CNN, but MSNBC continues to
struggle, Nielsen data shows.
The dip in ratings in Q1 2013 after the heavy news flow in
fourth-quarter 2012 was to be expected. The fourth quarter had the presidential
election, the school shootings in Connecticut and Hurricane Sandy all drawing
viewers to cable news, while first-quarter news events slowed down.
The second quarter, however, was again filled with major
news stories, including the Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma tornadoes and the
selection of the new pope.
In fourth-quarter 2012, Fox News Channel in primetime
averaged a 1.58 household rating and a 0.42 25-54 demo rating. Viewership
dipped 25% in first-quarter 2013 to a 1.18 rating, and its 25-54 demo rating
fell by 45% to a 0.23. In the second quarter, its primetime rating is back up
to a 1.37 in households and a 0.29 in the demo, increases of 16% and 26%,
respectively, over the first quarter.
Other than in fourth-quarter 2012, FNC's Q2 2013 household
rating is its highest quarterly rating in primetime since the first quarter of
2010. However, some of that viewer increase seems to be coming from the 55-plus
demo. Its 25-54 rating is its lowest since second-quarter 2012 when it also
averaged a 0.29.
CNN, in fourth-quarter 2012 primetime, averaged a 0.58
household rating and a 0.25 25-54 rating, its highest in more than two years in
both categories. Those numbers dipped in the first quarter, when the network's
household rating fell 28% to 0.42 and its demo rating dropped 44% to 0.14. In
the second quarter it has boosted its household rating by 33% back to a 0.56
and its demo rating by 64% to a 0.23. Both of those are almost equal to its
fourth-quarter 2012 numbers.
Less Good News for
The news has not been as good for MSNBC in primetime. In
fourth-quarter 2012, MSNBC was ahead of CNN in both household ratings and in
the 25-54 demo. MSNBC averaged a 0.82 household rating and a 0.33 25-54 rating.
In the first quarter it dipped by 35% to a 0.53 household rating and by 42% in
the 25-54 demo to a 0.19. In second quarter, however, unlike the rebounds by
FNC and CNN, MSNBC has continued its declines and is now behind CNN in the
ratings. In the second quarter, MSNBC's household ratings have fallen to a 0.45
and its 25-54 demo rating has dropped to 0.17.
Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media, says
major news events do draw more casual viewers to primetime news programming but
after a period of time, many of the viewers begin to tune out. He says after
the heavy news of the fourth quarter, viewers wanted to escape with lighter
programming and the cable news networks paid the price.
"With news, if you watch a lot of it, over a prolonged
period of time, eventually there is a tendency to want to move on to something
else," he says. "If you remember the big ratings the broadcast nightly news and
cable news networks got during the coverage of [Operation] Desert Storm in the
1990s. They weren't able to sustain those large ratings after a while."
Looking at specific Fox News Channel primetime programming, The
O'Reilly Factor is averaging a household rating of 2.08 in the second
quarter. Other than in fourth-quarter 2012 when the show averaged a 2.23, that's
its highest quarterly household rating since first-quarter 2010.
FNC's Hannity is averaging a 1.55 household rating in
the second quarter, down from the 1.69 it averaged in the fourth quarter, but
up from the 1.34 it averaged in Q1 2013. Other than in the third and fourth
quarters of 2012, Hannity's household
rating is its highest since the first quarter of 2010.
FNC's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren is
averaging a 1.24 in the second quarter, down from the 1.52 in Q4 2012 but higher
than the 1.03 in the first quarter. Again, other than in third and fourth
quarters of 2012, Van Susteren's show is producing its highest household rating
this quarter than any since fourth quarter of 2010.
While each of FNC's big three primetime shows
are down a bit in the 25-54 demo, and up in 55-plus viewers, they are still
kings of the hill when it comes to primetime cable news viewership.