A funny thing happened on cable news last week: CNN — yes, the beleaguered, ratings-starved, down the middle cable news network that just can't find an audience — scored major ratings victories over Fox News and MSNBC.
CNN posted and sustained surprisingly strong demo numbers across several timeslots last week. For the week, it was up 51% over its April 2010 A25-54 viewer average, while Fox News was up 11% and MSNBC down 5%. In primetime and daytime, CNN was up by huge percentages (35% and 57%, respectively) while both Fox News and MSNBC were down, relative to their April averages.
Perhaps the most startling statistics come during the day, where anchors like Kyra Phillips, Ali Velshi, and Rick Sanchez led CNN to victories over Fox News throughout the week. On Wednesday, for instance, CNN beat Fox News in the demo from 11AM-4PM; on Tuesday, CNN beat Fox at 9AM ("CNN Newsroom" with Kyra Phillips vs. "America's Newsroom" with Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum), 2PM ("CNN Newsroom" with Ali Velshi vs. "American Live" with Megyn Kelly), and 3PM ("Rick's List" with Rick Sanchez vs. "Studio B" with Shep Smith).
Perhaps related, Glenn Beck went after Rick Sanchez on his radio show Friday morning (after Sanchez had beaten Smith two days in a row), calling Sanchez "the biggest dope ever on television."
CNN's ratings successes continued into the evening last week, as well. "Anderson Cooper 360" regularly beat the 10PM repeat of MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" (a feat it did not manage in April), and "Campbell Brown" even topped the original "Countdown" run on Tuesday. "John King USA" saw its best numbers since it launched, and beat MSNBC's "Hardball" rerun three days in a row.
Of course, a week's worth of data means nothing if it is not sustained — and with the Times Square bomber, BP oil spill, Nashville flood, accidental stock market crash, British election, and UVA lacrosse murder, it was a busy news week, traditionally CNN's specialty. But the numbers suggest that CNN may not be as "down for the count" as its past primetime ratings might have you believe, and that the storyline that CNN executives have been pushing for months now might not be so far off after all.