A Good Year for TV News: Network Shows, CNN, MSNBC Post Ratings Gains

A royal wedding, Osama bin Laden’s death, tragedy in Japan and maybe even Charlie Sheen draw viewers

It's been a pretty good year for TV news.

Whether it was the British royal wedding, Osama bin Laden's death, the Japanese tsunami, or perhaps even Charlie Sheen, more people have tuned in so far this year to all three nightly network newscasts, as well as MSNBC and CNN, than did so during the same period in 2010.

CNN and MSNBC earned significant increases in viewership, though both lag far behind first-place Fox News, according to Nielsen numbers released Tuesday.

Also read: Fox News' Chris Wallace on Jon Stewart Flap: "Here's What I Meant"

Fox News has slipped, but still averages more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined, and has been the most-watched news channel for 38 consecutive quarters. It also remains by far the most-watched cable news network in primetime.

HLN, the fourth-place cable news network, was down in primetime in both total viewers and the 25-to-54-year-old demo targeted for news. It was also down in daily viewership in the demo, but up slightly in daily viewership in total viewers. (It also had some momentum on its side: Its audience grew in most categories in the second quarter of this year, April through June.)

Fox owed softer ratings in part to Glenn Beck, who leaves the network this week, and "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren." Beck's show, airing at 5 p.m., was down 26 percent in the demo in the second quarter, and 14 percent in total viewers, compared to the second quarter of 2010. "On the Record," airing at 10 p.m., was down 9 percent in the demo and 17 percent in total viewers.

Here are the numbers:

Year-to-Date 2011 (Compared to first same period in 2010)

Primetime | Total Viewers
1. Fox
2,210,000 (down 13 percent)
2. MSNBC 945,000 (up 8 percent)
3. CNN 768,000 (up 13 percent)
4. HLN 456,000 (down 8 percent)

Primetime | 25-54-Year-Old Viewers
1. Fox 530,000 (down 17 percent)
2. MSNBC 270,000 (up 11 percent)
3. CNN 254,000 (up 28 percent)
4. HLN 143,000 (down 11 percent)

Network Newscasts | Total Viewers 
1. NBC 9,168,000 (up 4 percent)
2. ABC 8,140,000 (up 7 percent)
3. CBS 5,988,000 (up 3 percent)

Networks Newscasts | 25-54-Year-Old Viewers
1. NBC
2,749,000 (up 4 percent)
2. ABC 2,226,000 (up 2 percent)
3. CBS 1,831,000 (up 2 percent)