Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fox News #1: Why all the fuss?

Fox News' Roger Ailes
There’s a reason liberals denounce “cable news.” “Cable News” in effect means Fox News. From “TVNewser”:
Fox News remained on top in 2013, capping off its 12th consecutive year as the most-watched cable news network among both total viewers and [coveted] A25-54 viewers. The channel, which finishes the year fourth among all cable networks, beat MSNBC and CNN combined in total viewers.
[All cable news traffic is down in 2013, a post-election year, but] since [Fox News] debuted its new primetime lineup in October, all four programs — On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File and Hannity are up in total viewers and [among A25-54 viewers] compared to their respective year-to-date averages.
The Washington Examiner’s Charles Hoskinson provided additional data: CNN shedded 48% of total viewers in the post-election 12 months and MSNBC dropped 45%, with even worse numbers among the key A25-54 age group, where CNN lost 59% and MSNBC 52%.  By contrast, Fox News was second in all of cable in prime time this past November, averaging over 2 million viewers.

And there’s further evidence Fox has already won the cable news race. Capital New York reported recently that CNN President Jeff Zucker had concluded his cable channel "cannot subsist on news alone" and that his new goal is "more shows and less newscasts." Zucker's move could mean delinking CNN from any rivalry with Fox and MSNBC, following two months in which his network fell to third in the ratings, led by a loss of viewers in the key 25-54 age group.

Finally in a story that should be especially upsetting to liberals, the Hollywood Reporter found that Fox News' subscription revenue continues to climb, rising to 94 cents a month per customer in 2013 for an estimated $1.1 billion -- making Fox News No. 6 in revenue among all cable networks.

Some perspective is in order. Seth Mandel, writing in the conservative Commentary, thinks he knows why Fox’s rise hits liberals so hard:
The American left became spoiled by its dominance of major media before Fox. Liberals reveled in their belief that they had ownership of a high-minded consensus. In order to own that consensus, however, the liberal media elite had to be speaking for the country.
Fox wrecked that consensus.

Liberal Michael Wolff has provided “Slate” a critical review of Gabriel Sherman’s book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country. Wolff believes Sherman suffers from
a conceit . . . that he is still writing about something at the center of American life and culture, something that has turned evil, rather than, in fact, marginal. Sherman, similarly to what Aaron Sorkin does in the reality-bending HBO show The Newsroom, treats his subject like an all-powerful network colossus—albeit, a network gone to the devil. But this is not network television, it is, in an altogether different context, culture, and effect, cable.
Fox’s prime-time audience averages 1.1 million [actually, 2.1 million on Thursday]. Network news audiences in the great old days reached 40 million. Sherman’s thesis that Ailes “divided a country” is quite absurd. What Ailes did do is to help turn politics into a special interest category. It is not just the Fox view that is a closed ecosystem—it is the liberal view of the Fox view that is as much a part of the bubble. Perfectly targeted co-dependents.
Wolff argues that the real story is “the fall of media as we know it and the rise of insurgencies, of which Ailes [and Fox News] is one, about the way to profitably redefine and speak to segmented audiences.”  

Conclusion: If you add the Daily Show to CNN and MSNBC (and why not?), the liberals on Thursday still beat the conservatives (Fox News + Fox Business) 2.7 million to 2.3 million in primetime in the co-dependent, closed-loop world of cable news. But if we allow individual shows into the ratings, The O’Reilly Factor’s two showings had a total audience 3.9 million, far outpacing the Daily Show’s 1.4 million.

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