Wednesday, March 26, 2014

News Viewership: Fox v. the Rest

Pew Research has taken a fascinating look at the news business. It shows what readers here already know--Fox is way ahead of the cable news competition. Look at the following graph:

But how do the cable news audiences compare to viewers of the broadcast channels’ evening news programs?

Prime time is three hours--it’s six 1/2 hour slots. Since Fox News averages 1.75 million viewers over six 1/2 hour slots, that’s a count of 10.5 million viewers for the 3 hours, even if many or most are the same person (they aren’t). The total of CNN and MSNBC audiences over the same period is (0.62 x 6 =) 3.7 million for MSNBC, and (0.54 x 6 =) 3.2 million for CNN, equaling 6.9 million for the two networks combined.

Here’s a graph of the network evening news audience, showing the networks are maintaining their ratings:

Pew has supplied the audience average for each of the three network shows separately, enabling us to compare the networks, which only capture viewers for 1/2 hour leading into prime time, to cable news channels with their total (3 hour) prime time audience:

Pew also has a graph showing how cable news revenue has increased over time:

Using Pew’s figures for the evening broadcast news show earnings, multiplied by 4/3 to achieve an annual total, we can compare the current revenue picture for the three cable news networks with the advertising revenue earned from the three network news shows. The cable news channels, with more time to sell, naturally earn much more than network news.

Fox earnings at $1.9 billion, in fact, almost match the $2.1 billion total earned by CNN, MSNBC, and the three evening network news shows combined.

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