Coverage of the Fort Hood shootings predictably resulted in a ratings spike for cable news networks– including Bill O’Reilly, who drew more viewers than several major primetime series.
Thursday’s "The O’Reilly Factor" averaged a hair under 5 million viewers from 8-9 p.m., outrating NBC’s "Parks and Recreation" in the 8:30 half hour. The "Factor" also outdrew Fox’s own "Fringe" at 9 p.m. (4.86 million) and "The Jay Leno Show" (4.83 million).
O’Reilly’s show Thursday was a mix of breaking news coverage of the shootings, as well as usual O’Reilly fare. It was the most-watched episode of the "Factor" this year, according to Nielsen data.
Of course, such comparisons aren’t completely relevant, since NBC and Fox both sell ad time based on adults 18-49 and O’Reilly’s show skews older than the primetime scripted shows. It does, however, show that the overall gap between broadcast and cable continues to disappear.
As for the overall cable news race Thursday, Fox maintained its usual leadership position. From the time the Ft. Hood shooting broke around the 3 p.m. hour until midnight, FNC drew an average audience of 3.04 million viewers vs. 1.58 million for CNN and 820,000 for MSNBC.