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Fox Utterly Destroys Cable News Ratings Competition in 2010

Fox News Channel has another banner year; MSNBC moves to No. 2 in primetime; CNN is still on?

The Nielsen numbers are in for 2010, and in the battle for cable news ratings supremacy, Fox News took the title for the ninth year in a row — bludgeoning the competition for another year.

The blowout comes on the heels on Fox News’ surging 2009, when the News Corp.-owned channel posted its highest-rated year in the network’s 13-year history. (Overall, cable news audiences were down across the board — though FNC's decline was from a high-water mark.)

Among the other 2010 highlights:

>> MSNBC, which in 2009 boasted its first full-year primetime win over CNN in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic, did so again, while beating CNN in total day “demo” viewers and average total viewers in primetime – both firsts for the network.

>> CNN had its lowest rated year in 14 years in primetime, both in terms 25-54-year-old viewers and average total viewers. And barring a breaking news event in the next few days, the network will at least tie its lowest rated year ever (1999) in total day “demo” viewers.

For average primetime and total viewers in 2010, Fox News beat its cable news competitors (CNN, MSNBC and HLN) combined in total viewers — and we outslugged CNN and MSNBC combined in “demo.”

Not only did Fox News wallop MSNBC and CNN, it ranked fourth among all cable networks in primetime, behind USA, ESPN and TNT. (MSNBC was 28th, CNN 32nd and HLN 37th.)

Fox owned the top 12 cable news shows in average total viewers and swept the top 10 among 25-54-year-olds (MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" came in 13th and 11th, respectively). Even the nightly repeat of the “O’Reilly Factor” averaged more viewers than MSNBC and CNN shows.

While moving ahead of CNN, several shows in MSNBC’s primetime lineup took a bit of a ratings hit in 2010.  “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” fell 25 percent in the 25-54 demo, 11 percent overall. Rising star Rachel Maddow took a step back among 25-to-54-year-old viewers, slipping 14 percent.

But MSNBC was the only cable news network to hold the statistical line in terms of average total day viewers, with its 399,000 average virtually flat over 2009. Fox News slipped 5 percent, HLN 10 percent; CNN plummeted about 30 percent in that category.

CNN blew up its primetime lineup and ousted Jon Klein as the head of the network. But its most marketable star, Anderson Cooper, turned in his lowest rated year ever among 25-54-year-olds – and this despite Cooper’s awe-inspiring work following the earthquake in Haiti and Gulf oil spill.

Cooper’s “360” fell 34 percent over 2009 in the “demo,” and 32 percent overall. And CNN’s newest primetime entrant, “Parker Spitzer,” is down 37% in total viewers and 36 percent in the 25-54 demo, compared to the same time slot in 2009.

Cable News 2010 Audiences                                

Total Day Viewers
1. Fox News  1,128,000 (-5%)
2. CNN  433,000 (-29%)
3. MSNBC  399,000 (0%)
4. HLN  276,000 (-10%)

Total Day 25-54-Year-Olds

1. Fox News  299,000 (-6%)
2. MSNBC 141,000 (-4%)
3. CNN  133,000 (-27%)
4. HLN  120,000 (-14%)

Primetime Viewers
1. Fox News  2,024,000 (-7%)        
2. MSNBC  764,000 (-5%)
3. CNN  591,000 (-34%)
4. HLN  444,000 (-21%)

Primetime 24-54-Year-Olds

1. Fox News  497,000 (-8%)
2. MSNBC  250,000 (-9%)
3. CNN  173,000 (-34%)
4. HLN  143,000 (-33%)

The Top 5 Cable News Programs in Average Total Viewers

1. The O’Reilly Factor: 3,191,000
2. Hannity: 2,294,000
3. Glenn Beck: 2,248,000
4. Special Report with Bret Baier: 2,111,000
5. On the Record: 1,889,000

Top 5 Cable News Programs Among 25-to-54-Year-Olds

1. The O’Reilly Factor: 781,000
2. Hannity: 585,000
3. Glenn Beck: 572,000
4. On the Record: 481,000
5. The O’Reilly Factor (repeat): 447,000

SOURCE: Nielsen

[Photo via Fox/illustration via TheWrap]