The Boston bombings last week created a surge in cable-news viewing. While CNN saw its best ratings in quite some time, the real winner was the Fox News Channel, which surged to the top of the ratings, well ahead of its competitors.
According to Nielsen, Fox News averaged nearly 3-million viewers in primetime, with a 1.7-million total-day average for the week ending on April 21.
CNN also benefited from the increased interest in news, with an average of 2-million primetime viewers and a 1.3-million total-day average, well above its normal numbers.
MSNBC, which has been beating CNN in the ratings for the last three years, could only muster an average of 923,000 primetime viewers and 578,00 total-day, placing it 19th among cable channels.
The victory was significant for Fox, since the last time they finished first in the cable ratings (both news and non-news) in a non-election week was during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This may signal an end to the dominance of CNN in the breaking news category. If that’s the case, it would be very bad news for CNN president Jeff Zucker who is trying to improve the overall ratings of the network, and can ill afford to lose viewers to Fox when covering breaking news events.
While the ratings win was good for Fox and bad for CNN, it was even worse for MSNBC. They attracted less than one-third of the number of viewers as Fox, proving that they are not seriously considered as a cable news network, especially when it comes to breaking news.
One week is certainly not a trend, but if a majority of viewers of cable news are now starting to see Fox News as a legitimate news network—something the left has repeatedly said they aren’t—then the attempt at reviving CNN will be much harder than Zucker imagined.