Anyone searching for a nice example of cable news ratings confusion could turn to the dueling press releases sent out by CNN and MSNBC on Tuesday.
Each network sent out a release trumpeting the same basic headline.
"CNN TOPS MSNBC FOR SECOND STRAIGHT QUARTER," CNN's release read.
"MSNBC TOPS CNN FOR THIRD QUARTER 2013," MSNBC said.
Both networks were right — since they each had victories in a different part of the ratings.
MSNBC beat CNN during weekday primetime in total viewers and the demo. The network drew 621,000 total viewers (vs. CNN’s 555,000) and 178,000 viewers ages 25-54 (vs. CNN’s 177,000). "PoliticsNation," "Rachel Maddow" "Hardball" and "Morning Joe" beat their CNN rivals in total viewers and the key demo.
But CNN beat MSNBC during total day for the second quarter in a row, drawing 422,000 total viewers (vs. MSNBC's 377,000 total viewers) and 136,000 viewers ages 25-54 (vs. MSNBC's 131,000). The network grew 9 percent and 15 percent in each category respectively, compared to the same time last year. MSNBC, on the other hand, was down 27 percent in total viewers and down 26 percent in the demo in contrast to Q3 2012.
Meanwhile, Fox News fell by double digits during total day, though it continued to lead both networks. Fox News was down 11 percent in total viewers compared to this time last year, and down 25 percent in the key demo.