The third quarter cable news ratings are out, and Fox News reigned again. Behind Fox News though, things were not business as usual: CNN is gaining on MSNBC for second place.
During the month of September, MSNBC still led CNN in viewers ages 25-54 during primetime -- but by just 12,000 viewers. The New York Times set off a firestorm when it wrote about the new dynamic.
CNN averaged 257,000 viewers, while MSNBC averaged 269,000. But not counting ratings for each of the network's GOP debates -- which both performed well -- CNN actually beat MSNBC in the key demo, 219,000 viewers to 207,000.
Though CNN's new lineup got off to a so-so start, Anderson Cooper's move to 8 p.m. seems to be paying off. Cooper beat MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell in the key demo in September, 212,000 to 185,000 (though O'Donnell still netted more total viewers). CNN's performance in the key demographic at 8 p.m. is also up, while MSNBC's is down compared to last September.
While September's ratings were not fantastic for MSNBC, however, it remains to be seen whether CNN's upward trend will persist. Overall, the third quarter ratings were more optimistic for MSNBC. The network topped CNN in primetime in both the total viewer and demo categories (with O'Donnell edging Cooper). In addition, "Morning Joe" continued its upward trend, and Al Sharpton's "PoliticsNation" started relatively strong.
Below, see the top 30 cable news shows in primetime for the third quarter of 2011.