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Cable News Services draw record numbers

April 12, 2003
Hollywood Reporter

As cable news services draw record numbers of viewers, the broadcast networks are foundering.

Fox News Channel earned its highest household rating ever on Monday night, a 6.3 for "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren" at 10 p.m. ET. With 6.71 million viewers, the show was the second-most-watched program in Fox history behind "The O'Reilly Factor" on March 19, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Viewing levels for the Big Three networks' nightly newscasts last week actually dropped by 1% even as cable viewership more than tripled in primetime and quadrupled over the entire day. Even at the 6 p.m. ET hour against the broadcast newscasts, cable viewership has doubled since the war began. For example, Fox's "Special Report With Brit Hume" has averaged 3.8 million viewers since the war, compared with 1.6 million for the previous month.

"NBC Nightly News" averaged 10.84 million viewers for the week ending April 6 to beat ABC's "World News Tonight" by almost 1 million viewers. "CBS Evening News" was far back with 7.3 million viewers. "Nightly News" was the lone broadcast to improve from a year ago, rising 5%. ABC dipped by 2%, and CBS fell by 12%.

As the weather gets warmer, evening newscast ratings generally drop, but NBC's viewership declined by 7% from February even as the cable networks have surged.

Among adults 25-54, overall ratings also dropped by 1% as NBC and ABC both improved by 6%, while CBS plunged by 19%. NBC had a 3.4 rating, compared with a 3.1 for ABC and a 1.9 for CBS.

And while primetime telecasts about the war have elicited mediocre ratings on the broadcast networks, Fox last week drew an average of 4.52 million viewers, a 268% increase from a year ago, to lead all basic cable networks. CNN was up 230% to 4 million, and MSNBC rose 323% to 1.68 million.

MSNBC scooped its rivals Monday night in reporting about the possible death of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) at 9:18 p.m. ET, 25 minutes before CNN, and the network earned a 2.3 rating at 10 p.m. ET. CNN's "NewsNight" averaged a 3.7