Last week, CNN proved once again that it is the television news source that occasional news viewers seek out when major stories break. It ranked ninth among all cable networks on a total day basis, averaging almost 900,000 a day. In primetime, it ranked eleventh, averaging more than 1,100,000 viewers every night.
The usual news leader, FoxNews, ranked sixth in total day, and fourth in primetime, but their numbers, particularly in primetime, were much lower than usual.
In demographic ratings, CNN led FoxNews by considerable margins among 18-49s and 18-34s, the hardest demographic to reach if you're in the news business, but FoxNews eaked out a narrow win, 25-54, finishing ninth with CNN in tenth place, only 22,000 viewers behind.
In primetime, CNN beat FoxNews only among 18-34s, but gave them a run for their money in all the other demographics. Short version: When it comes to hard news, CNN gains viewers, FoxNews declines.
One other factor: Viewers watch news when they like the news that's coming in. President Obama scored a major victory when bin Laden was taken out -- liberals loved that, conservatives did not. Therefore, liberals watched CNN to rejoice in their leader's triumph. Many conservatives averted their eyes, and FoxNews suffered.
Last week served to confirm CNN's gains in March, when revolutions swept the Middle East, and Japan was struck by earthquakes and a tsunami. After all these years, CNN still dominates "hard news." If only they could find a way to feature "hard news" and avoid talking heads, they might emerge as a serious week-to-week competitor to Fox. They still haven't learned that better reporting can turn most stories into "hard news."