Possible War Lifts News Talk Ratings


Bad news is good news for news outlets, and that's true of the networks' Sunday-morning news talk shows. 9/11 gave an immediate jolt to the shows' ratings, and an impending war with Iraq did the same in the February sweeps just ended.

NBC's Meet the Press, hosted by Tim Russert, dominates in a field of four that includes CBS's Face the Nation, ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos
and Fox News Sunday.

Meet the Press
had 5.68 million viewers, 66% more than Face the Nation's 3.42 million, 92% more than This Week's 2.96 million and 173% more than Fox News Sunday's 2.08 million.

In comparison with last year's February sweeps, Meet the Press
improved by 13% in households to a 4.3 rating/12 share, while Face the Nation
improved 8% to a 2.6 /7. Fox News Sunday
showed the biggest increase, jumping 36% to a 1.5/4. In viewers, Meet the Press
was up 16%, Face the Nation
rose 4%, and Fox News Sunday
increased a whopping 37%.

While Fox's ratings are the lowest, ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos
is having the most difficulty, falling 21% in households from last year to a 2.2/6. The show also is down 15% in viewers. Stephanopolous, a former top Clinton administration official turned newscaster, began anchoring the show at the beginning of the fall TV season.

Season-to-date, most of the news shows are down, the Sunday-morning news programs unable to maintain their 9/11 ratings boost. Compared with last season, Meet the Press
is off 6% in viewers and 5% in households; Face the Nation, 9% in viewers and 4% in households; and Fox News Sunday, 6% in viewers and flat in households.

Here too, This Week
saw the largest drop from last season: A big decline of 20% in viewers and 22% in households.