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Reese Schonfeld

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Cable News Ratings As Election Indicators II

Posted: 08/01/2012 3:41 pm

July ratings are now in and Fox News viewers continue to outnumber the viewers of the three other cable news channels by a tiny margin -- total day, Fox News averages 1,067,000 viewers, the other three networks, 1,031,000, that's about .3%, still just a rounding error and further evidence that pollsters who see President Obama and candidate Romney running neck and neck are accurate.

In primetime, Fox News has a bigger lead, averaging 1,678,000 viewers, while the other nets average 1,493,000 between them, a little more than 10%. That number indicates a runaway for Romney, but elections are determined by all the voters, not just those who watch TV in primetime.

Fox's victory in total viewers demonstrates once again that Fox News viewers tend to be much older than those of the other networks. MSNBC alone has more 18-34 viewers than Fox News does, and if you throw in the other two networks, they had more than twice as many viewers than Fox News did. The three other networks (MSNBC, CNN and Headline News) beat Fox News in 18-49s and 25-54s by about 50%. That indicates that if Democrats want to win in November, they'd better start courting Social Security beneficiaries.

On another matter, CNN announced last week that its President would be leaving the company at the end of this year. CNN's audience has been declining and for months it has trailed both Fox News and MSNBC in the ratings. Walton has been CNN's News Chief for nine years, and even at the time he arrived, CNN's ratings were in decline.

He succeeded Walter Isaacson, a former Time Life Editor In Chief, who wasn't much interested in television news. (He really wanted to write books and has since done pretty well at that kind of work.) For a while, CNN seemed to be changing its management every year. Finally, it brought in a couple of ex-network guys who proved less than competent, and two years ago, after the second was fired, Walton went back in house and named Ken Jautz as Executive VP. The ratings failed to improve, and Time Warner thinks its time to start afresh.

The most interesting thing about all this is that CNN's bottom line continued to improve all the while Walton was there. This year its profits will be more than $600 million. It was on his watch that CNN became the leading TV news website.

It's extremely unusual in this bottom line oriented business culture for a major corporation to fire a guy who's been increasing profits for nine years. But when profits increase while the product degenerates, it's time for a change, and Time Warner has made its move.

To throw in my two cents, I suggest that TW takes a good look at guys or women who come from news agencies as it looks for a new leader. I had really good luck with people who came from UPI, AP and Worldwide Television News thirty years ago, and I think that people with that background could do a lot more for CNN than someone who learned his/her trade at a broadcast network.

 
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