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CNN, which invented the cable news network more than two decades ago, will hit a new competitive low with its prime-time programs in October, finishing fourth – and last – among the cable news networks with the audience that all the networks rely on for their advertising.
The official monthly numbers will be finalized at 4 p.m. Monday and will include results from Friday. CNN executives conceded that will not change the competitive standing for the month. CNN will still be last in prime time.
That means CNN’s programs were behind not only Fox News and MSNBC, but even its own sister network HLN (formerly Headline News.) Three of its four shows between 7 and 11 p.m. finished fourth and last among the cable news networks. That was the first time CNN had finished that poorly with its prime-time shows.
Adam Rountree/Associated PressThe results demonstrate once more the apparent preference of viewers for opinion-oriented shows from the news networks in prime time.
CNN has steered opinion hosts like Nancy Grace to HLN, while maintaining more news-oriented shows on CNN itself. When news events are not being intensely followed, CNN executives acknowledge, viewers seem to be looking for partisan views more than objective coverage.
Individually, the CNN shows were beaten resoundingly by all the Fox News programs, but also lost to all of the MSNBC programs, including a repeat of Keith Olbermann’s 8 p.m. edition of “Countdown,” which beat the 10 p.m. hour of CNN’s signature prime-time program, “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Again that was a first.
Mr. Cooper had 211,000 viewers to 223,000 for Mr. Olbermann’s repeat. That meant Mr. Cooper finished fourth and last in the 10 p.m. hour because, besides being well behind the leader, Greta Van Susteren, who had 538,000 viewers, he was also beaten by a repeat of Nancy Grace’s 8 p.m. show on HLN, which averaged 222,000.
Virginia Sherwood/NBCFor the month, CNN averaged 202,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 – the group that television news organizations use as their basis of success because of their advertising sales. That was far behind the dominant leader, Fox News, which averaged 689,000. But it also trailed MSNBC, which had 250,000 viewers in that group and HLN, which had 221,000.
The only CNN show from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. that did not finish last was Larry King, which was third, ahead of the new Joy Behar show on HLN. But Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News had a huge lead with 659,000 viewers in that age group. Second was Rachel Maddow on MSNBC with 242,000.
Mr. King averaged 224,000 and Ms. Behar 181,000.
At 7 p.m. CNN’s host, Lou Dobbs was fourth, barely beaten by Jane Velez Mitchell on HLN, 166,000 to 162,000. The big winner was Shepard Smith on Fox with 465,000 viewers. Second was Chris Matthews and “Hardball” on MSNBC, with 179,000 viewers.
Keith Bedford for The New York TimesCNN’s performance was worst in the 8 p.m. hour. Bill O’Reilly on Fox News continued his long dominance with the biggest numbers of any host, 881,000 viewers. Mr. Olbermann, with his first-run program, was second with 295,000. Close behind was the first edition of Ms. Grace’s show with 269,000. Campbell Brown on CNN trailed with only 162,000.
CNN executives emphasized that the network continues to draw more viewers than all its competitors except Fox News when all hours of the day are counted.
CNN released a statement Monday saying, “CNN’s ratings are always going to be more dependent on the news environment, much more so than opinion-based programming especially in prime time.”