Cable News Ratings and Race

I apologize for this week's delay in reviewing July news ratings. By now most of you must know that there's little new, merely a continuation of second quarter trends. All four of the networks are losing viewers, CNN losing by far the most and MSNBC, by a nose, the least. On a total day basis, FoxNews was down 12%, Headline News 14%, while MSNBC dropped only 2% and CNN a whopping 43%. CNN did even worse in prime, dropping 53% there, Headline News lost 29%, FoxNews 11% and MSNBC 9%.

Almost 2,000 Huffington Post readers commented when HuffPost revealed that "The New York Times' Brian Stelter tweeted that, according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News has averaged just 29,000 black viewers in primetime so far this television season (9/09-7/10). That represents just 1.38% of its 2.102 million total viewer audience... MSNBC has averaged 145,000 black viewers, representing 19.3% of its 751,000 total viewer audience. CNN has averaged 134,000 black viewers, representing 20.7% of its 648,000 total viewer audience." (Stelter did not mention Headline News.)

If July's ratings followed that pattern, CNN would've averaged only 329,000 non-African American viewers, MSNBC 313,170 non-African American viewers while FoxNews delivered 985,210 non-African American viewers. This discrepancy is enormous and disheartening. It would seem that 50% more non-black news viewers (excluding Headline News) are turning to FoxNews than turn to CNN and MSNBC combined.

I can understand why blacks are avoiding FoxNews. Over the past couple of weeks FoxNews was the first to pick up the Shirley Sherrod story from a blogger and the main promoter of the story about the nightstick-wielding Black Panther that police drove away from a Philadelphia polling place. What I can't understand is why so many non-black viewers are no longer watching CNN and MSNBC, to some extent.

Poor programming and uninspiring on air talent has long plagued CNN, but perhaps the full effects of those bad decisions are just now taking full effect. CNN management says the company enjoyed its highest profits last year -- over $500 million. Since CNN's product is its audience, and its audience continues to shrink, I can't quite figure out how it's making so much money. Perhaps it's by cutting costs, and it may be that its cost cutting has begun to cost it its audience.

On a more positive note, and to say at least one good thing about CNN, I have been watching Fareed Zakaria's GPS on the network, and that is a show that I wish I had created. I think it is by far the most intelligent news talk show on television. Its guests represent different points of view. They are both knowledgeable and civilized -- no shouting and few interruptions. For those of you who've given up on CNN, I suggest that you come back to the network for at least one hour a week.