Fox’s voice is America’s choice.
No, we’re not talking about singers on “Glee,” “The X Factor” or “American Idol.” We’re talking about the other Fox – Fox News Channel – which once again is the overwhelming favorite source of news and commentary for cable news viewers. How overwhelming? Well, according to Nielsen data covering the third quarter of this year – July through September – more than competitors MSNBC, HLN and CNN combined.
To see just how much FNC dominates cable news, you can look at the numbers in several ways. For instance:
Ranking the top shows in cable news: Bill O’Reilly’s “O’Reilly Factor” is No.1 in cable news with an average of 2.886 million viewers nightly. In fact, Fox News programs occupy the first 12 spots in the cable news rankings. You don’t get to a non-Fox show until No. 13 – “Nancy Grace” on the once lowly (and nearly forgotten) CNN sister channel HLN, formerly Headline News.
But here’s what we’re getting at: If you add up the average viewership for the three top shows on each of the competitors in the quarter – “Nancy Grace,” (968,000), “Rachel Maddow” on MSNBC (No. 15, 913,000) and “Anderson Cooper 360” (the 10/9c edition, No. 18, 750,000) – it still won’t add up to the typical viewership for a single “O’Reilly.”
In prime time and “total day” viewership: You can attempt the same exercise – adding up the competitors – and you’ll almost (but not quite) accomplish the same feat. Here’s what we mean: In prime time during the three-month period, Fox News’ lineup of programs averaged 1.894 million viewers, MSNBC averaged 756,000, CNN had 676,000 and HLN had 669,000. (They add up to 2.101 million, but you get the point, right?) In “total day,” the stats were: Fox News 1.077 million, CNN 475,000, HLN 450,000 and MSNBC 428,000. Here again, they add up to more than 1.077 million combined, but not by much.
Who’s on top: After “The O’Reilly Factor,” the top-ranked shows in cable news are “Hannity” (No. 2, 2.065 million), “Special Report with Bret Baier” (No. 3, 1.865 million), “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” (No. 4, 1.738 million) and, well, every other FNC show. Then, way down the list, you get to the highly touted personalities on MSNBC and CNN – on MSNBC, Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, for example, who seem to spend half their shows whining about Bill O’Reilly, who’s cleaning their clocks in the ratings; or, on CNN, Anderson Cooper, who everyone likes and respects, but doesn’t necessarily watch, and Piers Morgan, whose interview show ranked 21st with an average nightly audience of 694,000. For the record, O’Donnell’s “Last Word” averaged 840,000 viewers, and “AC360” at 8/7c had 667,000.
Fox News Channel is so dominant that, even new shows score sky-high ratings: Take “The Five,” the round-table discussion show the network inserted with little or no fanfare at 5 p.m./4c to replace “Glenn Beck” last June. In the quarterlies, “The Five” ranked sixth among all news programs on cable with an average viewership of 1.407 million.
And guess who’s doing better than Anderson Cooper at 8 and Piers Morgan: Dr. Drew Pinsky, of all people, the VH1 reality star whose nightly talk show on HLN averaged 744,000 viewers in the quarter.
We happen to love reading ratings reports because, after all is said and done, the ratings have a way of cutting through all the shouting and the hype to reveal a simple truth. In this case, the truth is that Fox News Channel is a juggernaut that, for now at least, is unstoppable, no matter how much Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell complain about it.