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Cable News Ratings: Fox News is ‘Winning'; CNN Finds Primetime ‘Magic’ in Egypt

While FNC is in another stratosphere, the race for second place heats up

The February ratings for the cut-throat cable news ratings race are in, and Fox News continues to dominate the cable news landscape.

But with Olbermann out at MSNBC, and CNN apparently mulling more changes (beyond Spitzer) to its primetime lineup, the battle for second place is heating up.

Also read: Has Glenn Beck Lost His Mojo?

Here are the network-by-network highlights — and lowlights — for the past month (all numbers via Nielsen):

Fox News

>> As Charlie Sheen would say, Fox News is “winning.” The News Corp.-owned network beat all three of its would-be cable news rivals — MSNBC, CNN, HLN — combined in total viewers. For the “total day,” FNC beat MSNBC and CNN combined, too.

>> February was the 110th consecutive month Fox has been the most-watched news in terms of total viewers. But really, who’s counting?

>> Fox owns the top 10 cable news programs in terms of total viewers, and 11 out of the top 15 in the coveted 25-54-year-old demographic. Bill O'Reilly is tops in both.

>> If you count the rest of basic cable, Fox was the fourth most-watched network in primetime, with MSNBC (#26) and CNN (#29) well behind.

>> While Glenn Beck still has the highest rated show on cable news at 5 p.m., his show has seen nine consecutive months of declines in total viewers (see "Has Glenn Beck Lost His Mojo?" for more).


>> With the uprising in Egypt dominating most of the cable news cycle, CNN had a good month. Despite its primetime struggles, CNN managed to grow 55 percent in average total viewers during primetime (Monday-Friday) — the most growth of any cable network. (Keep in mind, though, CNN had a brutal 2010, so comparisons are going to be favorable.)

>> CNN overtook MSNBC for the number two slot in total day viewers in the 25-54-year-old demographic.

>> Anderson Cooper, who became part of the story in Egypt, topped MSNBC at 10 p.m. for the first time since June, averaging 305,000 25-54-year-olds (compared to Ed Schultz’s 234,000 on MSNBC) and edged Schultz in total viewers (855,000 to Schultz’s 827,000).

>> In his first full month on CNN, Piers Morgan drew 50 percent more 25-54-year-olds (237,000) than his predecessor Larry King did (158,000) a year ago. Morgan is also up 21 percent in total viewers (812,000 to King’s 672,000).

>> While rumors continue to swirl that “John King, USA” may be next on CNN’s chopping block following the retooling of “Parker Spitzer,” the 7 p.m. show had the best month since its March 2010 launch, increasing 20 percent in the 25-54-year-old demo (177,000 vs. 148,000 in 2010).


>> Like CNN, MSNBC grew its primetime total viewers by 18 percent during February 18% (995,000 vs. 842,000) and 8 percent among 25-54-year-olds. (Fox’s total viewers slipped 12 percent, and 14 percent in the demo.

>> Without Olbermann as a lead-in, Rachel Maddow’s lead on CNN among 25-54-year-olds slipped. During the fourth quarter, Maddow averaged more than 100,000 more demo viewers than Larry King (285,000 to King’s 169,000). In February, Morgan shaved Maddow’s lead to 65,000 (302,000 to 237,000) at 9 p.m.

>> Nonetheless, Maddow did increase her 25-to-54-year-old viewership by 39 percent (302,000 vs. 217,000) and 34 percent in total viewers – actually increasing MSNBC’s lead over CNN in the time slot.

February Primetime Viewers

1. Fox News | 1,917,000 (461,000 25-to-54-year-olds)
2. MSNBC | 841,000 (258,000)
3. CNN | 673,000 (215,000)
4. HLN | 348,000 (111,000)

February Total Day Viewers

1. Fox News | 1,114,000 (285,000 25-to-54-year-olds)
2. CNN | 484,000 (159,000)
3. MSNBC | 449,000 (145,000)
4. HLN | 240,000 (100,000)

SOURCE: Nielsen