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Crazy Week of News Has Impact on Ratings

Multiple networks broke into covering the surreal chaotic scene — the first time the U.S. Capitol was under siege since 1812. CNN was tops, peaking at 10.17 million viewers in the 4-5 p.m. ET hour; the 5-6 p.m. ET drew 10.05 million.

Doug Pucci

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The kickoff to the year of 2021 was quite a rollercoaster-like week for the United States.

On Jan. 3, there was the release of audio of Donald Trump pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to help “find” him more votes from the presidential election. Two days later, Georgia was also in focus as it was Election Day there for the runoff races between four candidates vying for two senate seats — at stake was either a continued Republican majority in the U.S. senate or a theoretic Democratic control in a 50-50 split scenario with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. The prime time viewer winner on cable that evening was MSNBC. From 8-11 p.m. ET on Jan. 5, MSNBC’s election coverage with Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid and Steve Kornacki drew 4.655 million viewers. Fox News was close behind with 4.35 million; CNN averaged 3.9 million. MSNBC nearly topped CBS (4.68 million) but it, along with its cable news competition, each outdrew the other broadcast networks NBC (3.6 million), ABC (3.4 million) and Fox (1.79 million).

CNN was the No. 1 prime time network (also over broadcast TV) in adults 25-54 with approximately 1.39 million viewers within that key demographic. MSNBC was runner-up (~1.15 million); Fox News (~870,000) trailed behind.

As developments of the two tight races were unfolding in the overnight (and which ultimately led to victories for Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff), MSNBC remained the most-watched cable news outlet. Here’s the breakdown:

11 p.m.-midnight

  • MSNBC: 4.619 million viewers
  • CNN: 3.452 million viewers
  • Fox News Channel: 3.308 million viewers

Midnight-1 a.m.

  • MSNBC: 3.822 million viewers
  • CNN: 3.144 million viewers
  • Fox News Channel: 1.835 million viewers

1-2 a.m.

  • MSNBC: 2.514 million viewers
  • CNN: 2.301 million viewers
  • Fox News Channel: 1.084 million viewers

2-3 a.m.

  • MSNBC: 1.837 million viewers
  • CNN: 1.830 million viewers
  • Fox News Channel: 0.756 million viewers

Then, the infamous date of Jan. 6, 2021 when the Electoral College vote was to be officially declared by elected government leaders at the U.S. Capitol. While that would eventually occur later that night, the afternoon was marred by the swarm of Trump-supporting invaders of the Capitol building to disrupt the process. Multiple networks broke into covering the surreal chaotic scene — the first time the U.S. Capitol was under siege since 1814 during the War of 1812. CNN was tops, peaking at 10.17 million viewers in the 4-5 p.m. ET hour; the 5-6 p.m. ET drew 10.05 million. Those same two hours were also highly watched for MSNBC (4-6 p.m. ET: 6.41 million) and Fox News (4-5 p.m. ET: 6.53 million; 5-6 p.m. ET: 6.18 million).

Insurrection coverage on the Trump-friendly outlet Newsmax TV posted the following viewer figures: 0.80 million (noon-2 p.m.), 1.02 million (2-5 p.m.), 1.22 million (5-6 p.m.), 1.045 million (6-7 p.m.), 1.03 million (for “Greg Kelly Reports” 7-8 p.m.) and 0.77 million (for “Stinchfield” 8-9:30 p.m.).

Advancing to prime time, as Washington D.C. implemented a curfew, tougher security via the National Guard arrived at the Capitol, and debates among senators and congressmembers were able to resume, the Big-3 broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) preempted its regular schedule to report on the events of the day. Yet, cable news continued to be a more popular destination for up-to-date information; two of those outlets led all of television in viewership. From 8-11 p.m. Eastern, CNN averaged 8.42 million viewers and MSNBC 7.64 million. MSNBC’s   broadcast parent NBC posted 5.82 million, followed by Fox News (4.7 million) and ABC (3.84 million). CBS’s special report coverage from 9-11 p.m. ET averaged 2.23 million.

CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith”, which had aired from 7-9 p.m., drew 345,000 viewers; approximately 100,000 more than its nightly average from recent weeks.

The calendar turned from 2020 to 2021 last week, and the three cable news channels still remained popular but it was ESPN, which featured the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Day, that led all cable networks in all key figures (total viewers and demos). In total day (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) data for the week ending Jan. 3, 2021, according to Nielsen Media Research, CNN was runner-up to ESPN in total viewers (1.25 million, to ESPN’s 2.43 million) but topped cable news. The annual New Year’s Eve Live coverage from Times Square on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen reached an all-time high (since its 2001 initial special) with 3.364 million viewers — a near-doubling of its year-ago audience (1.727 million from Dec. 31, 2019; +95 percent year over year).

The third and fourth place spots on all of cable were Fox News Channel (1.13 million) and MSNBC (1.015 million).

In full, here are the cable news prime time averages for Dec. 28, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021:

Total Day (6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.293 million viewers; 180,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 1.252 million viewers; 297,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.282 million viewers; 155,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (Dec. 28-Jan. 2 @ 8-11 p.m.; Jan. 3 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.771 million viewers; 249,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 1.594 million viewers; 406,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.430 million viewers; 218,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs in total viewers:

1. New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (CNN, Thu. 12/31/2020 8:00 PM, 270 min.) 3.364 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 12/29/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.830 million viewers

3. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 12/30/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.794 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 12/28/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.768 million viewers

5. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 12/28/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.681 million viewers

6. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 12/29/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.629 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/30/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.598 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 12/30/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.536 million viewers

9. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 12/29/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.526 million viewers

10. New Year’s Eve Live with Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon (CNN, Thu. 12/31/2020 12:30 AM, 60 min.) 2.522 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and Fox News program and its associated rank) among adults 25-54:

1. New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (CNN, Thu. 12/31/2020 8:00 PM, 270 min.) 1.205 million adults 25-54

2. New Year’s Eve Live with Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon (CNN, Thu. 12/31/2020 12:30 AM, 60 min.) 0.953 million adults 25-54

3. Situation Room (CNN, Mon. 12/28/2020 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.531 million adults 25-54

4. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Mon. 12/28/2020 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.515 million adults 25-54

5. Situation Room (CNN, Tue. 12/29/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.497 million adults 25-54

6. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Sun. 1/3/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.488 million adults 25-54

7. Situation Room (CNN, Mon. 12/28/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54

8. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Sun. 1/3/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.464 million adults 25-54

9. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Sun. 1/3/2021 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.463 million adults 25-54

10. Situation Room (CNN, Tue. 12/29/2020 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.456 million adults 25-54

17. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 12/29/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.427 million adults 25-54

30. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 12/29/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.394 million adults 25-54

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BNM Writers

Activist Journalism Should Have No Place in Mainstream Media

Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism.

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A photo of a protest

Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan was shocked most Americans are supportive of deporting illegal aliens (because that is the actual legal term for undocumented immigrants). CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan has no idea America is not a democracy (the Irish journalist might want to take a civics class before making this false claim). And the Surgeon General is calling on social media outlets to have warning labels. It’s just more proof that activist journalism has grown all too prevalent in mainstream media today.

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.” Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism. Perhaps we (the media) are becoming the beast we once feared.

Brennan’s shock at her own outlet’s poll made headlines because many felt it shouldn’t be a surprise. No country in the history of Earth has been or will be completely content with an exorbitant amount of people from another country landing within their borders. The report, which claimed 62% of Americans support deporting those who come here illegally, is now framed with additional results. 53% of Hispanic voters say they would favor the program.

The new CBS poll also found more Americans “overwhelmingly” trust President Trump on border security than President Biden. While we have yet to see Ms. Brennan’s jaw drop on air a second time, I’m confident it’s already happened behind the scenes. Reactions like this are not only un-journalistic (because just give us the news, we don’t care about your opinion that’s what talk radio is for), they show how out of touch some members of the media are with America outside of the large markets.

Speaking of out-of-touch with America, CNN seems to believe it’s a good idea to have a biased non-American report on the election. Regardless of his citizenship, Mr. O’Sullivan needs to learn more about the Constitution and the founding of the American government before reporting on it. I have said it before and will say it again, America is not a democracy, it is a democratic republic. Those on the right saying America is just a Republic are also wrong.

Mr. O’Sullivan’s false narrative that America is a democracy is a prime example of activist journalism in the works. Other “reporting” from him (if you can call it that) also included interviews with Pro-Palestinian groups who say they will not back Biden. Yet he does not ask one very simple question: Then who will they back? Trump? Doubtful, but if that is the answer it never made it into his story.

These national outlets might want to take a lesson from their affiliates, as local news now has more Americans’ trust than the bigger, more staffed, and better-paid counterparts. Why? Because there is less opinion and more journalism at the local level. This is likely why a May Pew Institute Research poll showed 69% of Americans believe that local journalists in their area are mostly in touch with their community. With even more (85%) believe local news is “somewhat important” to the well-being of their local community. National news poll numbers don’t even come close (as I previously commented).

What’s most concerning out of all the past week’s headlines, however, is Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s call for social media to come with a warning label. This would be as effective as posting warning labels on cigarette packs (meaning this is going to do nothing to stop people from partaking in addictive habits).

You can not save everyone and you certainly can’t save agenda-driven “journalists” from developing propaganda and posting it to social media. If a warning label on cigarettes won’t stop smokers from smoking it won’t stop social media users from scrolling. It is a drug, some people are addicted. It is an unfortunate but true part of life.

Most, if not all, Americans are aware of the addictiveness of social media just like they know the dangers of smoking. Warning labels won’t make people stop and think. It’s just more government overreach.

This is the thing local news does best, gives you unbiased information, it does not tell you how to think about certain issues (usually), and the good outlets call out government overreach when they see it.

We can not regulate our way out of life nor can the industry continue to render activist journalism and try to pass it off as real news. People are getting smart and turning to local news for facts. Hopefully, these stations won’t be corrupted by the same powers that now influence our national outlets.

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BNM Writers

Fox News Leads 80th Anniversary of D-Day Coverage

More than 3 million viewers watched coverage of the 80th anniversary on cable news.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of Fox News coverage of D-Day

One of the notable news events in June was the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany back on Thursday, June 6. More than 3 million viewers watched the coverage on cable news with Fox News leading the way.

President Biden attended a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery in France alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. In his remarks, Biden pledged “We will not walk away” from Ukraine, using the example of the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination In parallel to the current war against Russian aggression. “To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable. If we were to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

The morning news programs televised the D-Day remembrance ceremonies within the 8-9 AM ET hour on Thursday, June 6. Fox News was tops on cable overall, according to Nielsen Media Research, with 1.467 million viewers including 153,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. The network sent host Martha MacCallum to Normandy to broadcast live from the site of the invasion, sharing stories of combat veterans.

The MSNBC’s entire 6-9 a.m. ET block averaged 1.019 million viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54.

CNN/HLN’s combined broadcast drew 475,000 viewers and 110,000 in the 25-54 demo.

Later in the month, on Tuesday, June 11, music superstar Céline Dion joined Today co-host Hoda Kotb on NBC for the singer’s first one-on-one interview since publicly revealing she suffers from a neurological condition called stiff person syndrome.

Getting a huge assist from its America’s Got Talent (5.527 million) lead-in, the one-hour news special entitled “Celine’s Story” delivered 3.227 million viewers, marking it the most-watched program on all of television within the 10-11 p.m. hour on June 11. It outdrew such other 10 p.m. news shows as Fox News’ Gutfeld! (2.496 million), MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.078 million) and CNN’s NewsNight (433,000).

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BNM Writers

How KDKA Transformed Overnights to Grow Its Future and Reach Younger Audiences

“The overwhelming feedback has been positive. It makes us local, it gives us a bench … it makes the radio station’s brand bigger and connects us in different areas.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of the cast of KDKA Next Take and the KDKA logo
(Photo: KDKA)

In February, venerable Pittsburgh news/talk station KDKA announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh that would see students from the college host a weekday overnight program.

The program — KDKA Next Take — is heard from 1-5 AM and replaced the nationally syndicated Red Eye Radio in the Audacy-owned station’s lineup.

A product of the imagination of Audacy Pittsburgh Senior Vice President and Market Manager Michael Spacciapolli, he believes the show has been a success in its early run.

“The show certainly offers a different perspective on the way that this generation looks at the world and from their viewpoint as opposed to other hosts who are in a different time in their life than them,” Spacciapolli said. “So we certainly are able to share a different point of view from them, while at the same time utilizing those points of view on social and getting them to really engage the radio station from a social perspective and hopefully engaging in and not just speaking to, but engaging people in that demographic, as well.”

Needing to attract younger audiences has been at the forefront of the news/talk radio industry for quite some time. Another issue discussed by leaders of the format are often centered around where stations will find the next crop of young talent.

With the partnership with Pitt, KDKA took the initiative to seek out those who might be interested in a radio career, rather than hope those potential employees found them.

“I’m always looking for great talent. Everything I do and in every aspect of the radio station, I’m looking for the most talented people. I’m always looking for where is the next great talent in everything we do,” said Spacciapolli. “This gives me the opportunity to have them working with us on an everyday basis and learning everything they do — from their work ethic, to their thought process, to their ideas. It gives me an opportunity to have our own ‘bench’ and have an opportunity to see where talent could come from in the future.

“There’s going to be talent there that we are potentially going to take a look at in different roles. Do they leave Next Take when their time is up on the show and do they immediately become full-time hosts? Probably not. But can they become part-time hosts? Sure,” he added. “Can they become producers? Absolutely. Can they become reporters? Can they become part-time reporters? Absolutely. Working with us gives us the opportunity to certainly move in that direction much more quickly and confidently than we would have previously.”

For decades, overnights were a proving ground for aspiring hosts. The daypart allowed for opportunities for young hosts and provided a low-pressure timeslot to experiment and hone your craft. But with the rise of automation and syndication, those positions have largely fallen by the wayside.

However, Audacy Pittsburgh looked at the partnership with the college and saw opportunity. The collaboration allows a younger generation access to the station that is largely dominated by older hosts and listeners.

Additionally, it provided even more local coverage to a station that prides itself of being “The Voice of Pittsburgh.” That factor wasn’t lost on Spacciapolli.

“A big part of my vision was it gave us the opportunity to be local, gave us the opportunity to be local overnight, which for me is how we win in this business is being local, staying local, talking to people in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, and this gave us the opportunity to do that on a pretty big scale and with fresh content every day.”

It would be natural for a full-time or even part-time employee of the Pittsburgh news/talk station to be jealous that a four-hour program was being given to college students. But that hasn’t been the case, Spacciapolli shared.

“The overwhelming feedback is very positive … Because there’s no expense it’s not like it’s somebody else could have been doing it. It would have continued to be syndicated if we weren’t able to do it through the partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. So it just makes the radio station’s brand bigger. It connects us in different areas and hopefully grows the brand and gets the brand younger.”

The program is recorded live-to-tape earlier in the day before airing in the 1-5 AM timeslot, which allows for some fine-tuning and takes the pressure off the radio novices, while also allowing them to helm a show instead of working in the wee hours of the night while trying to focus on their studies.

Spaccipolli shared that an overnight program hosted by college students interested in one day working in the industry doesn’t have to be proprietary to KDKA. He said there’s one deciding factor in the success of the endeavor.

“It’s about the relationships and the partnerships. And, fortunately, I have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, they’re a great partner. I was able to get deep enough into this relationship with them and find ways to potentially make this work,” he stated.

“This is not easy. It’s not something you can pull off easily because, traditionally, I think, people think about it and they think, ‘Oh, there’s got to be significant expense.’ And in this situation, there’s not because that wouldn’t have fit our model for where it is and what we’re trying to do with it. So there isn’t that expense. You’re not gonna be able to make it work everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to do it here.”

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