Whatever else you hold Casey Anthony for, she's partly guilty of this: Ratings at CNN and HLN are down dramatically from last July, as the Olympics, Colorado shooting and the presidential election failed to capture their viewers' attention like Anthony's acquittal did a year ago.
Two bright spots for CNN: Its ratings for July are better than they were in the second quarter, when it recorded its worst monthly primetime numbers in two decades. And Anderson Cooper happened to score a ratings bump in the key demo in the same month he announced he is gay. All of his 8 p.m. competitors, meanwhile, were down.
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Fox News, as usual, trounced its rivals, though ratings were down almost across the board for cable news. No network, however, slid as much as HLN.
Last July, HLN had its highest-rated month ever, even beating MSNBC in primetime and total day, thanks to its wall-to-wall coverage of Anthony, the woman Nancy Grace dubbed the "tot mom." Last July was stocked with other big stories as well, including a mass killing in Norway, Amy Winehouse's death, the fight over the debt ceiling, and Maria Shriver filing for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Less news this month was a factor in Fox, MSNBC, CNN and HLN all being down in primetime ratings, in total viewers and the key 25-54 demographic, compared to last July. (In actual numbers, Fox News averaged 1.7 million total viewers and 330,000 in-demo viewers in primetime; MSNBC averaged 724,000 total and 225,000 in-demo; CNN averaged 489,000 and 149,000; and HLN averaged 320,000 and 116,000.)
In total day, MSNBC, CNN and HLN were down in both total viewers and the demo. Fox was up 3 percent in total viewers, but down 8 percent in the demo. (Fox News averaged 1.07 million total viewers and 252,000 in the demo; MSNBC averaged 433,000 total and 142,000 in the demo; CNN averaged 355,000 and 109,000; and HLN averaged 246,000 and 101,000.)
In primetime, HLN was down 69 percent in total viewers and 62 percent in the demo. In total day, it was down 65 and 57 percent, respectively.
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CNN suffered too, though not as much: In primetime, it was down 23 percent in total viewers and 27 percent in the demo. In total day, it was down 20 and 23 percent, respectively.
CNN and HLN are more reliant on breaking news than rivals Fox News and MSNBC, which place more emphasis on personality-driven political coverage.
Cooper's "AC 360" was flat in total viewers but up 6 percent among viewers 25-54 at 8 p.m. He still trailed Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," the perennial first place finisher at 8. "O'Reilly" averaged 2.6 million total viewers, more than three times as many as the second-place finisher, MSNBC's "Ed Show," and 522,000 viewers in the demo, more than twice the in-demo viewers for "Ed." Cooper came in third in total viewers and the demo.
But Cooper beat Nancy Grace, who came in second to O'Reilly last July, when she rode high on the tot mom's sad story.