Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Audience for Cable News Shows is...

Something I've learned in the last few days came as quite a surprise. I pay a lot of attention to what happens on cable news shows. The "big three" being Fox, MSNBC and CNN, of course.

But those shows attract far fewer viewers than the major broadcast networks do in the evening news slots. In fact, network news attracts around 3 to 4 times as many viewers as the best-performing cable news show do, on average.

Some quick-and-dirty stats to help you wrap your mind around this: ABC Network's prime time evening news show led the three major networks in total viewers last week (week of July 23rd) with slightly less than 8 million viewers.

When a cable news show does really well, it will bring in somewhere between 2.5 and 4 million viewers.

For example, the best night MSNBC's Rachel Maddow ever had was back in July of 2017 and she attracted 4.1 million viewers. This year, she'll do around 2 to 2.5 million on a decent night. So a cable news show does very well when it pulls in a audience about a quarter of the size of a typical network news evening broadcast.

 I did not know!

Having acknowledged that, I think it's also true that people do pay a lot of attention to cable news, even though the audiences are small-ish!

One example being how Donald tRump spends hours each day watching Fox Noise and responds regularly to things said by Don Lemon or Anderson Cooper on CNN.

I guess you could say that even if the audiences are small, folks do pay quite a bit of attention to what comes from Fox, CNN and MSNBC.  I certainly keep an eye on them and I know I've got plenty of company on that.

By the way, what got me looking at this issue was a recent post on Teagan Goddard's first-rate site, If you're not familiar with it, I recommend it highly. That feature may be a bit confusing if you've read my post today, as it focuses on monthly numbers and zeros in on the morning cable news shows specifically. But it was my entry point to the subject of how cable news audiences are pretty small, in relative terms.

Another good thing about that post on Politicalwire is that it also gives you a way to compare cable news to internet-based news, and those numbers are quite instructive, too.

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

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