Fox News Ends Year With Higher Ratings Than MSNBC, CNN and HLN Combined

As 2013 draws to a close, Fox News Channel continues to dominate cable television news programming, according to Nielsen data through Dec. 8.

In an article for Variety, Rick Kissell stated that Fox has averaged 1.774 million viewers in prime time -- down 13 percent from last year's presidential election-driven numbers -- while the Cable News Channel fell 15 percent, and MSNBC lost 29 percent.

However, not all the news regarding Fox was positive. The 297,000 people in the important demographic of adults from 25 to 54 years of age was down 30 percent compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, Kissell noted that MSNBC followed with 203,000 adults (down 29 percent), and CNN drew 187,000 adults, falling 16 percent.

The reporter then stated:

Among all basic cable networks in 2013, FNC ranked sixth in prime time while MSNBC was 29th and CNN was 31st.

In total day, Fox ran fourth while CNN was 28th and MSNBC ran 30th; in 2012, CNN finished behind MSNBC. CNN and HLN showed some year-over-year gains on a total-day basis, while FNC and MSNBC were down.

One of the biggest developments in 2013 was the fact that the popular Fox News Channel made significant changes to its prime-time lineup.

Starting Oct. 7, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren moved from 10 p.m. to 7 o'clock, where it has regularly doubled Chris Matthews' Hardball audience. The O'Reilly Factor remained in its 8 p.m. slot, where it is still the top show in cable news with 2.78 million total viewers and 439,000 in the important demographic.

O'Reilly has often quadrupled the numbers for All In with Chris Hayes by garnering 3.22 million viewers compared to the MSNBC audience of' 851,000. The demographic score has been 506,000 to 178,000.

In addition, The Kelly File with Megyn Kelly generated a tremendous boost that improved the 9 o'clock audience by 23 percent in total viewers and 13 percent in adults 25-54 and tripling ratings of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Also on the move was Hannity, which at 10 p.m. more than doubles the numbers for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC.

Kissell noted that the only network to gain viewers in the past 12 months was HLN. Formerly known as  the Headline News channel, the low-rated cable television outlet increased its audience to 403,000 total viewers, up 21 percent, and 142,000 in the important demographic of adults 25 to 54 years old, a boost of 27 percent.

Of course, the network began 2012 with low ratings, so its growth doesn't change its status as the last-place finisher in cable television news programming.

The network that started the year with the most anticipation was CNN, with Jeff Zucker -- the former head of NBC Universal -- taking the reins of the once-dominant channel that is on pace for its least-watched year in prime time.

Zucker, who later claimed that CNN “covers much more” than rivals Fox News and MSNBC, brought in several new shows, which saw considerable growth in May over the previous year. He lured newsman Jake Tapper away from ABC News to helm The Lead With Jake Tapper, which comes in second among the cable news channels in its time slot.

He also hired Chris Cuomo to serve as one of the hosts of the early morning program New Day, which also started with a ratings boost and led to a “cozy interview” with president Barack Obama.

However, the ratings for both new programs diminished during the final months of the year as CNN -- which had either tied or surpassed earlier numbers for MSNBC-- was forced to shift from mostly hard news to non-news programming such as the vulgarity-laced travel show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

Nevertheless, not all of Zucker's programs have been successful. (Get to) The Point, an obvious ripoff of The Five on Fox News Channel, did so poorly in the ratings that it was pulled off the air within days and then described as a “week-long experiment.”

Looking over the ratings for the past year, I have to admit that I'm baffled as to why MSNBC is so slow in dealing with the network's poor numbers. Yes, they returned Ed Schultz to weekday programming, but how long can they last with such terrible prime-time ratings?

Are they holding on until the mid-term elections next year in the hope that liberals will once again flock to their channel to hear their point of view repeated? If so, then 2014 will be an interesting year.

Randy Hall
Randy Hall