Several news outlets were quick to jump on Anderson Cooper’s soft first week in his new time slot, which ran from Aug. 8 to Aug. 12. Cooper, reporting from Somalia for most of the week, attracted fewer viewers than he did at his old slot – 10 p.m., which is when his show now re-airs – and lower ratings than all three of his competitors – Bill O’Reilly, Lawrence O’Donnell and Nancy Grace.
Well, after week two Cooper is still doing better at 10 p.m. than 8 p.m. and his competitors are still beating him, but any detractors were a bit hasty then and remain so now.
When it comes to his first week, his trip to Somalia is a relevant factor.
As one industry expert told me “You got to Somalia, you don’t win the viewership. And I say ‘you know what, ok,’ If you think going to Somalia and covering a famine is going to get you viewers, you must be living on another planet.”
As for this most recent week, there is some reason for optimism. This is not because Cooper’s numbers are fantastic – they’re not – but because there were signs of improvement and because Cooper continues to demonstrates his appeal to the coveted adults 25-54 demographic.
Cooper’s numbers this past week grew substantially. His total viewership increased 18 percent, from 502,000 to 591,000 and his viewers in the demo grew 30 percent, from 162,000 to 210,000.
While the number of total viewers remains low, his performance in the demo is what CNN seems to be focusing on. As one spokesperson pointed out, Cooper beat MSNBC’s “Last Word” among those viewers for the week.
There is one crucial piece of information missing – O’Donnell was not hosting the show as he took time off following the passing of his mother.
Cooper also continues to excel at 10 p.m., which suggests one of two things – his competition is simply weaker there or his audience has not caught up with the switch. Both are likely the case. The competition is stronger at 8 p.m., especially given O'Reilly's popularity, but when it comes to the end of summer, TV watching habits are also unpredictable.
As the same expert told me, “Viewership traditionally is down and it’s a really bad time to make very much of any kind of viewer habit this time of year.”
So should CNN be excited? Maybe not, but any kind of alarm is premature.