NYTimes: Audience 'Leans Left' on Cable... or Not!
“It happened naturally,” Phil Griffin, a senior vice president of NBC News who is the executive in charge of MSNBC, said Friday, referring specifically to the channel’s passion and point of view from 7 to 10 p.m. “There isn’t a dogma we’re putting through. There is a ‘Go for it.’”What ever the case, if MSNBC decides to become the anti-Fox and find themselves the station of the lunatic left fringe, then it had better be prepared for permanent low ratings. Not the best business model, to be sure. But, the Times thinks this is great and they point to the ... *cough*... success... of Countdown, with Keith Olbermann as proof that this really could work. Here is the laugher of the piece:
Mr. Olbermann has even come tantalizingly close to surpassing the ratings of the host he describes as his nemesis, Bill O’Reilly on Fox News...Huh? They cite the "ratings wave" Olbie has had as proof of this amazing feat of ratings success that has shown MSNBC that they can slam their programming leftward and still make it in the big leagues. But, even as they do reveal that O'Reilly beats Olbie by "1.5 million viewers over all" (and what other REAL measurement is there?), they try their best to make Olbie seem a great success story. For instance, The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News sometimes reaches upwards to nearly 3 million viewers, in fact on April 16th it reached 3.546 million, yet Countdown with Keith Olbermann rarely tops 1 million viewers (the Times piece quotes "773,000 viewers a night"). So, with O'Reilly at least doubling, sometimes trebling, Olbermann's audience, it looks like Olbermann is as "tantalizingly close" to besting O'Reilly as Christopher Columbus was to discovering a new route to the Indies when he discovered the New World. Missed it by that much. In the end, what is really true is that their claims of great ratings guns for Olbermann is more spin than fact. Certainly MSNBC can puff themselves up as the anti-Fox, but that shows only that they are running behind Fox and that Fox has won the game for branding and viewers. MSNBC is admitting that Fox has set the agenda and that Fox is the one to beat. But, this doesn't deter the Times who is desperately trying to prop the floundering MSNBC up as the best thing since sliced bread. Tellingly, the piece does not contrast the real ratings of the two stations, especially that of O'Reilly and Olbermann. Showing the real stats would make all their high praise seem hollow, indeed. I'll not post it here because you have to see it larger than we can post here, but here is a link if you want to see a great chart that shows how badly Olbermann does compared to O'Reilly. Nope, it's not going as swimmingly as the Times wants to make it seem, for sure. **Update** Just for information, the website I linked with the chart above has some other great TV related charts and trends. check it out at tvbythenumbers.com.