The Olympics spiced up the ratings war between the cable networks in August. The month brought strong gains for MSNBC, along with the usual victories for Fox News and weaker results for CNN.
The monthly cable news ratings were released on Wednesday, and Fox News cleared the top of the list again. The network claimed the top ten programs in total viewers, and ten of the top 15 shows in the coveted ages 25-54 demo. Ratings were, however, down compared to August 2011. Total viewers dropped by 9% and 31% in the key demo. "The O'Reilly Factor," "Hannity" and "On the Record" suffered double digits losses in the demo.
MSNBC shows cut into the top shows higher on the list than usual, thanks to the Olympics. Like NBC News' other platforms, the network got a strong boost from an unprecedented amount of coverage. MSNBC was up 14% in both total viewers and the demo during the day, compared to August 2011. Primetime shows like "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "The Last Word" gained in both groups, and Al Sharpton's "PoliticsNation" posted its best numbers in the demo since debuting last year.
Over at CNN, the news was also not so good. The network was down 41% in total viewers for primetime and down 39% in total day, compared to August 2011. The sharp declines can partially be attributed to the slowness of the news cycle compared to this time last year, when CNN was covering Hurricane Irene and the events of Arab Spring.
On the bright side, however, ratings jumped once Olympics coverage ended on MSNBC. Primetime programming was up more 50% and daytime programming was up between 20 and 30%, compared to when the Olympics were happening.