By Peter Barry Chowka
The Cable News Wars of 2017 continue to rage on, with the Fox News Channel and MSNBC fighting it out for first place in prime time. When the ratings for the month of November came out at the end of the month, MSNBC appeared to be fine tuning – some might say fudging or even faking – the official numbers to try and claim a victory when they actually came in second to FNC in a critical metric.
In the latest ratings, the key prime time battleground was the 9 P.M. E.T. hour. Starting last spring, Rachel Maddow took MSNBC to first place in that time slot for the first time in 15 years. In the wake of FNC putting the weak show The Five on at 9 P.M. on May 1 (after Bill O’Reilly was fired less than two weeks earlier and the whole FNC prime time schedule had to be adjusted), that time slot was suddenly up for grabs.
Last September 25, FNC started introducing its new prime time schedule, returning The Five back to 5 P.M. and moving the channel’s #1 show, Hannity, back an hour to 9. In its first week at 9 P.M., Hannity immediately registered a strong first place showing.
One month later, Rachel Maddow was occasionally beating Hannity and FNC in the preferred demo – viewers between the ages of 25-54 who advertisers prefer because they think people 25-54 are more susceptible to purchasing the kinds of products and services that are advertised on television.
Coverage of the last month’s cable news ratings published on November 29 caught my eye. For example, Mark Joella wrote at Forbes:
Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity held onto his crown as King of Cable News, beating everyone in the November ratings period with an average audience of 3.2 million viewers, making Hannity the most-watched cable news show for the second straight month.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who led her network to record ratings in the third quarter, finished November in third place overall, with a total audience of 2.8 million viewers. Among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults 25-54, Maddow finished in second place, with 634,000 viewers.
So, what then are we to make of another – completely different – analysis of the November cable news ratings? “Rachel Maddow Is #1 In The Demo Again As Fox News’ Hannity Gamble Shows Signs Of Slipping,” also published on November 29, but this time at Politicususa:
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is the top-rated show with viewers age 25-54 as the same older viewers who have always watched Hannity are the only thing keeping Fox News afloat.
While Hannity and Maddow are engaged in a battle for the lead in total viewers, it is the prized age 25-54 demo where MSNBC’s Maddow has a clear lead.
According to numbers sent to PoliticusUSA by MSNBC, “’The Rachel Maddow Show’ reclaimed the #1 title in the coveted A25-54 demographic across all of cable news as well as for the 9pm time period (including all specials) [emphasis added] for the month of November, according to Nielsen.”
Indeed, that is what the NBCUniversal news release, crowing about its channel MSNBC, also dated November 29, said. A close look at the release, however, reveals the critically important caveat “including all specials.” In order to claim #1 status in the demo for the Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC had to include other “special” programs not hosted by Maddow that aired in Maddow’s 9 P.M. time slot during the month of November! The inclusion of Maddow-free programs, on nights when Sean Hannity was hosting his program at FNC, is obviously an unfair comparison. It does not accurately measure the performance of Maddow vs. Hannity during the entire month.
This fact was taken note of by the reliably fair and obective A.J. Katz, analyzing the ratings on November 29 at TVNewser:
Sean Hannity [emphasis original] had the No. 1 show in cable news in total audience, and the second-most-watched show on all of cable for November, only ESPN’s behind Monday Night Football.
Hannity was also No. 1 in the key A25-54 demo for the month if one excludes special programming (639,000 vs. 634,000 for Rachel Maddow). But if one includes special programming, Hannity is No. 2 in the demo behind Maddow.
So, there it is: an unbiased analysis of the cable news ratings. No one else, other than Katz, seems to have taken any note of NBCUniversal’s fancy footwork with the monthly Nielsen ratings report.
Should we be surprised that MSNBC, a notorious fake news channel, fudges the ratings? What else is new? CNN, another fake news outlet, tried the same thing last summer, as I reported at American Thinker on August 26:
On Monday [August 21], MSNBC and FNC described their programming from 9:01 to 9:27 P.M. E.D.T. (or 9 to 9:30 P.M. in the case of MSNBC) as “Pres Address-Afghanistan” (FNC) and “MSNBC Special Coverage” (MSNBC), instead of The Five and The Rachel Maddow Show that normally air at 9 P.M. CNN, however, told Nielsen it was airing “Anderson Cooper 360,” even though, as with the other channels, President Trump was on CNN during that entire time. This means, in effect, that the ratings surge provided to CNN during that half hour by viewers tuning in to see President Donald J. Trump – ironically CNN’s nemesis – will be attributed to the lagging Anderson Cooper program!
Back to the present, the latest weekly ratings that came out on December 5th were analyzed by Fox News in a press release:
According to Nielsen Media Research, FOX News Channel (FNC) topped all of basic cable in primetime and total day with P2+, averaging 2.5 million and 1.5 million total viewers, respectively. Additionally, last week, FNC crushed the cable news competition in primetime and total day with both total viewers and the A25-54 demo, with Hannity leading the way as the most-watched program in cable news in both categories (3,228,000 P2+; 628,000 A25-54). Additionally, Hannity’s telecast on Wednesday 11/29 ranked #5 for the week in all of basic cable, only behind football, The Walking Dead and Hallmark’s original Christmas movie. Overall, FNC programs made up 10 of the top 20 programs in all of cable, including various presentations of The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity and The Ingraham Angle.
Fox News’s sister cable channel, the Fox Business Network, also had good news to report:
FOX Business Network (FBN) continued its winning streak over CNBC, crushing the network in Business Day viewers for the 26th consecutive week, according to Nielsen Media Research. During the historic financial news week of November 27th-December 1st, FBN’s Business Day coverage saw a 27 percent advantage over rival CNBC with 241,000 total viewers compared to CNBC’s 190,000.
As the Dow passed the momentous 24,000 mark on Thursday, November 30th, FBN’s Business Day coverage swept CNBC across the board. Averaging 269,000 total viewers, FBN’s Business Day delivered a 35 percent advantage over rival CNBC (200,000) and a 7 percent win in the A25-54 demo with 32,000 viewers compared to CNBC’s 30,000.
Additionally, FBN also dominated CNBC as the markets reacted to the breaking news surrounding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. On Friday, December 1st, when the markets plunged over 300 points before steading to close down 41 points, FBN recorded 278,000 Business Day viewers to CNBC’s 210,000. Furthermore, FBN also outpaced CNBC in the demo with 41,000 viewers to 36,000.
Battles in the cable news war of attrition aren’t close to being over, so stay tuned for developments.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture. Peter’s latest video interview on The Hagmann Report on Dec. 1, 2017 can be watched here. Follow Peter on Twitter @pchowka.
By Peter Barry Chowka
The cable news ratings wars – as predicted – heated up this past week as Fox News began introducing its revised prime time schedule, primarily by shifting Sean Hannity’s 10 P.M. E.T. show to 9 P.M. so he could challenge MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. As leaders of the anti-Trump “Resistance,” MSNBC and Maddow had grown their audience significantly since a year ago and Maddow had moved into the cable news lead with her nightly left wing anti-Trump attack show.
Meanwhile, Fox News, which had led the cable TV news ratings for fifteen years until earlier this year, was suffering this spring and summer after schedule upheavals resulting from the loss of major on-air talent and several of its its top executives after published allegations of sexual harassment and subsequent internal investigations.
Finally last Monday September 25, after weeks of behind the scenes maneuvering and negotiations, Fox News kicked off its new prime time lineup, primarily involvining Sean Hannity moving his program to 9 P.M. It will be complete on October 30 when Laura Ingraham launches her new nightly show at 10 P.M. E.T. and a new live news program anchored by Shannon Bream premieres at 11 P.M..
For the moment, though, all eyes have been on the new contest at 9 P.M. pitting Sean Hannity against Rachel Maddow. Previously, since May 1, the 9 P.M. hour on Fox News had been occupied by the ensemble left-right talk show The Five, featuring the insufferable left wing propagandist Juan Williams in a prominent role. Hundreds of readers commenting on my articles at American Thinker have targeted The Five and Williams in particular as unworthy of prime time and viewers across the nation apparently agreed since The Five was a ratings loser against Maddow. Meanwhile, Hannity, clearly a stronger contender, has pulled ahead of Maddow this week.
Hannity assembled a strong lineup of guests in his first week at 9 P.M. week to challenge MSNBC and he handily won every night in the ratings so far (Mon-Thurs) except that on Wednesday MSNBC tied Fox News at 9 P.M. in the “demo” (viewers 25-54). As Chris Ariens of TVNewser at Adweek reported in his article on Friday September 29, “Hannity Poised to Win the Week in New Timeslot.”
Big bookings by the team from Hannity will almost certainly make that show No. 1 across cable news this week.
In fact, Hannity’s guests this week all made news. Former White House advisor Steve Bannon on Monday in his first live cable news interview since leaving the White House in August. The unprecedented return of fired host Bill O’Reilly for a 25-minute long appearance on Tuesday. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in his office at the Capitol with Hannity on Wednesday. And Rush Limbaugh, the nation’s #1 radio talk show host, with Hannity in Florida on Thursday, with part two airing later on Friday.
In addition to the high-power guests, Hannity is now doing his show live five nights a week, which adds a more immediate, breaking news quality to the program. Both MSNBC and CNN air most of their prime time shows live. The numbers from this week tell the story. According to Early Nielsen Media Research (Nielsen has provided TV ratings since the 1950s), in the 9 P.M. E.T. hour Monday through Thursday this week:
FNC’s Hannity delivered 3,715,000 total viewers and 779,000 in ages 25-54 and 461,685 ages 18-49
CNN’s AC360 [and two nights of special town halls] delivered 970,000 total viewers and 341,000 in ages 25-54 and 281,437 ages 18-49
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show delivered 2,549,000 total viewers and 537,000 in ages 25-54 and 381,998 ages 18-49
Friday night’s ratings – and the final, entire week’s averages – won’t be available until next Monday October 2.
Ultimately, this is only one week out of the year. Experienced observers are cautioning that the winners in the battle for supremacy in cable news ratings overall, and the critical 9 P.M. hour in particular, will still probably shift back and forth in the weeks ahead. But even the MSM has been forced to admit that Fox News is off to a strong start. Sean Hannity, suggesting that he is taking the long view and is also confirming my impression of him that he is a man of considerable humility, replied to my email on Friday about the ratings success with this comment: “Thanks Peter. Although I know it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
Largely left in the dust, as it has been, is CNN, which is coming in a poor third with its schedule of prime time programs hosted by Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Each night, the two hosts’ shows feature panels largely made up of anti-Trump reporters and left wing Democrat Party activists. In August, CNN fired Jeffrey Lord, its most articulate conservative analyst, on the pretext that he had tweeted as satire a comment – a common greeting in Germany during the Nazi era – to a left wing activist with whom he was engaging in a twitter battle.
Stepping back for a moment, the big picture of the current cable news wars is this: The Shadow Government and its minions in the Deep State are targeting the media, both alternative and mainstream – for a take down, and they have had considerable success in turning the MSM into a one-voice echo chamber for continuous anti-Trump propaganda. This lack of diverse viewpoints in the MSM is unprecedented in modern times and presents an obvious danger to anything approaching fair and objective reporting. Recent studies by respected mainstream academic institutions have confirmedthat the MSM is tilting its coverage of President Trump so that it’s over 9 to 1 negative. Meanwhile, about one half (technically 52 percent negative to 48 percent positive) of the coverage of the Trump Administration at Fox News, true to its “fair and balanced” credo, has been negative.
Peter Chowka is a widely published author and journalist. He writes most frequently these days for American Thinkerand The Hagmann Report. His Web site is AltMedNews.net. Follow Peter on Twitter. Peter’s most recent video appearance on The Hagmann Report on September 19, 2017 can be watched here.