Love ’em or hate ’em, the talk-show personalities of Fox News Channel have a stranglehold on the cable news audience. And there’s no sign that FNC’s leadership – in prime time and most other times – will fade any time soon.
That’s the impression you get from the latest cable news ratings. The numbers for 2010’s third quarter (July through September) show FNC clearly in the driver’s seat. The network’s shows occupy the first 11 positions on a list of the top 30 highest-rated shows on cable news channels. Breaking the streak at No. 12 is MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, whose ‘Countdown’ averaged 953,000 viewers nightly during the three months.
How does that stack up against FNC, particularly Olbermann’s archenemy, Bill O’Reilly? It’s chicken feed. ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ at 8/7c is the top-rated show in cable news by far – again – with 2.7 million viewers. And as if that’s not enough, the nightly 11pm repeat of ‘O’Reilly’ comes in at No. 8 with nearly 1.27 million viewers.
The other FNC stars also reign supreme:
No. 2: ‘Hannity’ at 9/8c, with 2.12 million viewers
No. 3: ‘Glenn Beck’ at 5/4c, 2.1 million
No. 4: FNC’s ‘Special Report with Bret Baier’ at 6/5c, 1.93 million
No. 5: ‘On The Record with Greta Van Susteren’ at 10/9c, 1.77 million
At least Olbermann and MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow (819,000 viewers during 3Q) are faintly competitive with FNC. You can’t find a CNN show on the list until you get to No. 19 with Anderson Cooper’s ‘AC 360’ averaging 599,000 viewers at 10/9c (though Nancy Grace on co-owned HLN actually rates higher than Cooper, averaging 619,000 viewers weeknights at 8/7c).
‘Larry King Live’ is 20th with 545,000 average viewers – quite a comedown from the warhorse’s glory days when he had the top-rated prime-time show on the cable news channels. Well, he’s gone by year’s end anyway.
The moral of this ratings story: The people at FNC know how to put on shows that attract attention. The network’s a juggernaut, folks. But with that in mind, what on Earth can MSNBC and, even more so, CNN, do to make headway against Fox?