Nov 24, 2020
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Front Page, Industry News

Debates keep networks in Fox hunt

Like a heavyweight prizefight, Obama vs. Clinton has energized the American viewing public, funneling record numbers of viewers to CNN and MSNBC.

But when the Democrats finally settle on a nominee, will these advancing cable newsies be able to do anything about the 800-pound gorilla that is Fox News?

Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for rep firm Katz TV, doesn’t think so. “It’s the personalities that count in cable news primetime,” he says. “When a big event like the presidential primary starts to taper off, viewers go back to the personalities.”

And Fox News has the consistently highest-rated news personalities in primetime with its lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.

Of course, CNN and MSNBC would love to postpone getting stomped by Fox News. They’re no doubt hoping that Sen. Hillary Clinton does well enough on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas to stay in the race and keep millions of people riveted on her increasingly tense rivalry with Sen. Barack Obama.

If the campaign for the Democratic nomination continues, CNN may chalk up more months like Feburary, when it beat Fox News in primetime in the key news demo of adults 25-54 for the first time since November 2001 — when viewers flocked to the net for news in the aftermath of 9/11.

And CNN and MSNBC may be able to gin up more debates between Obama and Clinton going into the spring. Execs at MSNBC are still high-fiving one another over the 7.8 million people who tuned in to the Feb. 26 Obama-Clinton free-for-all, the most-watched program in the 11-year history of the network.

Although MSNBC and CNN are doing all the boasting, Fox News has also benefited from the hoo-ha surrounding the high-visibility campaigns and debates during the last two months. But Fox News’ percentage gains are smaller than those of its news network competitors, at least in part because it draws almost twice as many viewers, on average, as CNN and almost three times as many as MSNBC. And, on basic cable, Fox News finished third overall in total viewers for February, its best ranking since April.

One big reason why Fox News doesn’t become swollen with extra viewers during a big news story like Hurricane Katrina, says Tom Rosenstiel, head of Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, is that “the universe of viewers CNN draws on is higher than the loyal viewers who watch Fox News.”

The problem for CNN is that the members of that viewer universe don’t watch the network as often, or for as great a length of time, as the Fox loyalists. That’s why, Rosenstiel says, “CNN gets a bigger ratings spike than Fox News during an event.” Most of those casual viewers seek out CNN, not Fox News.

Right now, people can’t get enough of cable news, and Jason Maltby, president of media buyer Mindshare, says new advertisers are buying time, including film companies looking for “viewers who are engaged, and paying attention.” In the short term, he adds, the news networks can “monetize and capitalize on the election because they’re attracting fresh advertisers.”

Maltby says one reason CNN is on a roll is that “people perceive it as impartial, as focusing on news,” rather than injecting a liberal or conservative bias. But as infrequent viewers drawn to the election discover anchors like CNN’s Campbell Brown and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for the first time, says Maltby, the acid test will be whether “in the absence of the fervor of a political campaign, they’ll retain an audience on their own merits.”

Without trying to duplicate the success of a partisan superstar like Fox’s O’Reilly, CNN has instead focused on hard news reporting, bringing in people from print media (Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria) and radio (National Public Radio’s Jay Kernis), and hosting debates like last month’s Los Angeles showdown between Clinton and Obama, which scored higher numbers than any other debate in cable history.

CNN president Jon Klein says personalities like Brown, who will soon take over the 8 o’clock weeknight slot in the next month or so, and Anderson Cooper, who hosts the 10 p.m. hour, are “aggressively independent. They’re not in the pocket of either the left or the right.”

But trying to play it down the middle, Carroll says, may not be such a good thing. “Fox News’ ratings prove that having a conservative edge is what viewers are interested in,” he says. These hard-edged personalities can tide Fox over the rough patches when the big news of the day is the birth of a panda at the San Diego Zoo.

Fox News’ Jay Wallace, one of the architects of the net’s political coverage, explains his lack of worry over the Obama-led gains of CNN and MSNBC with a sports analogy. “Once the game ends,” he says, “you’re going to turn back to ESPN. When people want context and analysis, they turn back to the channel that they trust for that.” And that behavior uncovers the identity of the regular Fox viewer: a loyal fan.

Whatever you think of Fox’s high-profile editorial commentators (like O’Reilly and Hannity), their presence has given the network enough forward motion to pull along rising stars like Shepard Smith and Bill Hemmer, and it’s something that departing talent can’t take with them when they leave for other nets.

That momentum has also carried FNC successfully through a primary in which the Democratic party refused to appear on Fox-sponsored debates. “People may hate us,” Wallace observes, “but they know who we are.”

Wallace points to the success of the Democratic candidates, Obama specifically, as one of the reasons for the large ratings spikes the two other networks have seen in the past few weeks.

“I think with a lot of these Democratic debates, you’re getting people who never watch news,” Wallace suggests. “Most people don’t watch news until they turn 35 years old and start having kids and paying taxes. Now you have a strong character like Barack Obama who has energized the youth vote more than anybody else in history. If he’s on MSNBC and CNN, those young people are going to follow him.”

Media buyers dismiss Fox as skewing too old (the average viewer is about 66 compared to CNN’s 62 and MSNBC’s 57). But to Fox, those oldies are golden, continuing to tune in, week after week, indifferent to the siren song of CNN or MSNBC.

Source: Variety

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Front Page, Industry News

Debates keep networks in Fox hunt

Like a heavyweight prizefight, Obama vs. Clinton has energized the American viewing public, funneling record numbers of viewers to CNN and MSNBC.

But when the Democrats finally settle on a nominee, will these advancing cable newsies be able to do anything about the 800-pound gorilla that is Fox News?

Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for rep firm Katz TV, doesn’t think so. “It’s the personalities that count in cable news primetime,” he says. “When a big event like the presidential primary starts to taper off, viewers go back to the personalities.”

And Fox News has the consistently highest-rated news personalities in primetime with its lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.

Of course, CNN and MSNBC would love to postpone getting stomped by Fox News. They’re no doubt hoping that Sen. Hillary Clinton does well enough on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas to stay in the race and keep millions of people riveted on her increasingly tense rivalry with Sen. Barack Obama.

If the campaign for the Democratic nomination continues, CNN may chalk up more months like Feburary, when it beat Fox News in primetime in the key news demo of adults 25-54 for the first time since November 2001 — when viewers flocked to the net for news in the aftermath of 9/11.

And CNN and MSNBC may be able to gin up more debates between Obama and Clinton going into the spring. Execs at MSNBC are still high-fiving one another over the 7.8 million people who tuned in to the Feb. 26 Obama-Clinton free-for-all, the most-watched program in the 11-year history of the network.

Although MSNBC and CNN are doing all the boasting, Fox News has also benefited from the hoo-ha surrounding the high-visibility campaigns and debates during the last two months. But Fox News’ percentage gains are smaller than those of its news network competitors, at least in part because it draws almost twice as many viewers, on average, as CNN and almost three times as many as MSNBC. And, on basic cable, Fox News finished third overall in total viewers for February, its best ranking since April.

One big reason why Fox News doesn’t become swollen with extra viewers during a big news story like Hurricane Katrina, says Tom Rosenstiel, head of Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, is that “the universe of viewers CNN draws on is higher than the loyal viewers who watch Fox News.”

The problem for CNN is that the members of that viewer universe don’t watch the network as often, or for as great a length of time, as the Fox loyalists. That’s why, Rosenstiel says, “CNN gets a bigger ratings spike than Fox News during an event.” Most of those casual viewers seek out CNN, not Fox News.

Right now, people can’t get enough of cable news, and Jason Maltby, president of media buyer Mindshare, says new advertisers are buying time, including film companies looking for “viewers who are engaged, and paying attention.” In the short term, he adds, the news networks can “monetize and capitalize on the election because they’re attracting fresh advertisers.”

Maltby says one reason CNN is on a roll is that “people perceive it as impartial, as focusing on news,” rather than injecting a liberal or conservative bias. But as infrequent viewers drawn to the election discover anchors like CNN’s Campbell Brown and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for the first time, says Maltby, the acid test will be whether “in the absence of the fervor of a political campaign, they’ll retain an audience on their own merits.”

Without trying to duplicate the success of a partisan superstar like Fox’s O’Reilly, CNN has instead focused on hard news reporting, bringing in people from print media (Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria) and radio (National Public Radio’s Jay Kernis), and hosting debates like last month’s Los Angeles showdown between Clinton and Obama, which scored higher numbers than any other debate in cable history.

CNN president Jon Klein says personalities like Brown, who will soon take over the 8 o’clock weeknight slot in the next month or so, and Anderson Cooper, who hosts the 10 p.m. hour, are “aggressively independent. They’re not in the pocket of either the left or the right.”

But trying to play it down the middle, Carroll says, may not be such a good thing. “Fox News’ ratings prove that having a conservative edge is what viewers are interested in,” he says. These hard-edged personalities can tide Fox over the rough patches when the big news of the day is the birth of a panda at the San Diego Zoo.

Fox News’ Jay Wallace, one of the architects of the net’s political coverage, explains his lack of worry over the Obama-led gains of CNN and MSNBC with a sports analogy. “Once the game ends,” he says, “you’re going to turn back to ESPN. When people want context and analysis, they turn back to the channel that they trust for that.” And that behavior uncovers the identity of the regular Fox viewer: a loyal fan.

Whatever you think of Fox’s high-profile editorial commentators (like O’Reilly and Hannity), their presence has given the network enough forward motion to pull along rising stars like Shepard Smith and Bill Hemmer, and it’s something that departing talent can’t take with them when they leave for other nets.

That momentum has also carried FNC successfully through a primary in which the Democratic party refused to appear on Fox-sponsored debates. “People may hate us,” Wallace observes, “but they know who we are.”

Wallace points to the success of the Democratic candidates, Obama specifically, as one of the reasons for the large ratings spikes the two other networks have seen in the past few weeks.

“I think with a lot of these Democratic debates, you’re getting people who never watch news,” Wallace suggests. “Most people don’t watch news until they turn 35 years old and start having kids and paying taxes. Now you have a strong character like Barack Obama who has energized the youth vote more than anybody else in history. If he’s on MSNBC and CNN, those young people are going to follow him.”

Media buyers dismiss Fox as skewing too old (the average viewer is about 66 compared to CNN’s 62 and MSNBC’s 57). But to Fox, those oldies are golden, continuing to tune in, week after week, indifferent to the siren song of CNN or MSNBC.

Source: Variety

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Front Page, Industry News

Debates keep networks in Fox hunt

Like a heavyweight prizefight, Obama vs. Clinton has energized the American viewing public, funneling record numbers of viewers to CNN and MSNBC.

But when the Democrats finally settle on a nominee, will these advancing cable newsies be able to do anything about the 800-pound gorilla that is Fox News?

Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for rep firm Katz TV, doesn’t think so. “It’s the personalities that count in cable news primetime,” he says. “When a big event like the presidential primary starts to taper off, viewers go back to the personalities.”

And Fox News has the consistently highest-rated news personalities in primetime with its lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.

Of course, CNN and MSNBC would love to postpone getting stomped by Fox News. They’re no doubt hoping that Sen. Hillary Clinton does well enough on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas to stay in the race and keep millions of people riveted on her increasingly tense rivalry with Sen. Barack Obama.

If the campaign for the Democratic nomination continues, CNN may chalk up more months like Feburary, when it beat Fox News in primetime in the key news demo of adults 25-54 for the first time since November 2001 — when viewers flocked to the net for news in the aftermath of 9/11.

And CNN and MSNBC may be able to gin up more debates between Obama and Clinton going into the spring. Execs at MSNBC are still high-fiving one another over the 7.8 million people who tuned in to the Feb. 26 Obama-Clinton free-for-all, the most-watched program in the 11-year history of the network.

Although MSNBC and CNN are doing all the boasting, Fox News has also benefited from the hoo-ha surrounding the high-visibility campaigns and debates during the last two months. But Fox News’ percentage gains are smaller than those of its news network competitors, at least in part because it draws almost twice as many viewers, on average, as CNN and almost three times as many as MSNBC. And, on basic cable, Fox News finished third overall in total viewers for February, its best ranking since April.

One big reason why Fox News doesn’t become swollen with extra viewers during a big news story like Hurricane Katrina, says Tom Rosenstiel, head of Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, is that “the universe of viewers CNN draws on is higher than the loyal viewers who watch Fox News.”

The problem for CNN is that the members of that viewer universe don’t watch the network as often, or for as great a length of time, as the Fox loyalists. That’s why, Rosenstiel says, “CNN gets a bigger ratings spike than Fox News during an event.” Most of those casual viewers seek out CNN, not Fox News.

Right now, people can’t get enough of cable news, and Jason Maltby, president of media buyer Mindshare, says new advertisers are buying time, including film companies looking for “viewers who are engaged, and paying attention.” In the short term, he adds, the news networks can “monetize and capitalize on the election because they’re attracting fresh advertisers.”

Maltby says one reason CNN is on a roll is that “people perceive it as impartial, as focusing on news,” rather than injecting a liberal or conservative bias. But as infrequent viewers drawn to the election discover anchors like CNN’s Campbell Brown and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for the first time, says Maltby, the acid test will be whether “in the absence of the fervor of a political campaign, they’ll retain an audience on their own merits.”

Without trying to duplicate the success of a partisan superstar like Fox’s O’Reilly, CNN has instead focused on hard news reporting, bringing in people from print media (Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria) and radio (National Public Radio’s Jay Kernis), and hosting debates like last month’s Los Angeles showdown between Clinton and Obama, which scored higher numbers than any other debate in cable history.

CNN president Jon Klein says personalities like Brown, who will soon take over the 8 o’clock weeknight slot in the next month or so, and Anderson Cooper, who hosts the 10 p.m. hour, are “aggressively independent. They’re not in the pocket of either the left or the right.”

But trying to play it down the middle, Carroll says, may not be such a good thing. “Fox News’ ratings prove that having a conservative edge is what viewers are interested in,” he says. These hard-edged personalities can tide Fox over the rough patches when the big news of the day is the birth of a panda at the San Diego Zoo.

Fox News’ Jay Wallace, one of the architects of the net’s political coverage, explains his lack of worry over the Obama-led gains of CNN and MSNBC with a sports analogy. “Once the game ends,” he says, “you’re going to turn back to ESPN. When people want context and analysis, they turn back to the channel that they trust for that.” And that behavior uncovers the identity of the regular Fox viewer: a loyal fan.

Whatever you think of Fox’s high-profile editorial commentators (like O’Reilly and Hannity), their presence has given the network enough forward motion to pull along rising stars like Shepard Smith and Bill Hemmer, and it’s something that departing talent can’t take with them when they leave for other nets.

That momentum has also carried FNC successfully through a primary in which the Democratic party refused to appear on Fox-sponsored debates. “People may hate us,” Wallace observes, “but they know who we are.”

Wallace points to the success of the Democratic candidates, Obama specifically, as one of the reasons for the large ratings spikes the two other networks have seen in the past few weeks.

“I think with a lot of these Democratic debates, you’re getting people who never watch news,” Wallace suggests. “Most people don’t watch news until they turn 35 years old and start having kids and paying taxes. Now you have a strong character like Barack Obama who has energized the youth vote more than anybody else in history. If he’s on MSNBC and CNN, those young people are going to follow him.”

Media buyers dismiss Fox as skewing too old (the average viewer is about 66 compared to CNN’s 62 and MSNBC’s 57). But to Fox, those oldies are golden, continuing to tune in, week after week, indifferent to the siren song of CNN or MSNBC.

Source: Variety

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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