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Fox News Has 62 of the Top 100 Cable Telecasts in Total Viewers

On the broadcast network front, each of the three major outlets had something to tout about with their respective news offerings. 

Doug Pucci



Fox News Channel continues to dominate the cable landscape. Of the top 100 cable telecasts in total viewers for the week of Dec. 13, the network aired 62 of them.

Each of the three significant outlets had something to tout about with their respective news offerings on the broadcast network front. 

ABC’s five signature news shows performed well in the fourth quarter of 2021. According to Nielsen Media Research, their evening newscast “World News Tonight” averaged 8.160 million total viewers and 1.411 million among the key 25-54 demographic for the week of Dec. 13-17. That marked their 159th weekly victory (over NBC and CBS) of the past 160 weeks in total viewers, as well as their 88th win of the last 90 weeks in adults 25-54. In addition, “World News Tonight” has ranked No. 1 in total viewers for six consecutive seasons and both adults 25-54 and adults 18-49 for three straight seasons.

In the morning, ABC’s “Good Morning America” averaged 3.327 million total viewers for the fall 2021 season-to-date (from Sep. 20-Dec. 19), which ranks as the No. 1 morning newscast for the tenth consecutive year. In addition, ABC’s “The View,” with approximately 2.3 million viewers, rates No. 1 in the total audience among daytime network talk shows and news programs (most notably including the third and fourth hours of NBC’s “Today”).

ABC’s public affairs program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” earned its fourth consecutive Sunday morning victory among adults 25-54. On Dec. 19, “This Week” delivered 470,000 viewers within that key demo, while CBS’ “Face the Nation” (465,000 adults 25-54 for the show’s first half-hour) and NBC’s “Meet the Press” (445,000 adults 25-54) were close behind. The recent demo victories have propelled “This Week” to its first overall Sunday morning lead among adults 25-54 at this point of the TV season (Sep. 20-Dec. 19) since 2015-16.

And finally, ABC’s long-running “20/20” accomplished something it has not done since the fall of 2015: topped NBC’s “Dateline” in all key figures to become Friday’s No. 1 newsmagazine. From Sep. 20 thru Dec. 19, “20/20” — which has recently increased its emphasis on true crime investigation content — averaged 4.128 million total viewers, 1.17 million adults 25-54, and 842,000 adults 18-49.

Over at CBS, it was business as usual for the venerable “60 Minutes” and “CBS Sunday Morning.” “60 Minutes” remained the No. 1 news program of all of television, as well as a top-10 show overall in total viewers. It averaged 9.71 million viewers, with 1.86 million of them in the key adults 25-54 demographic; in the fourth quarter of 2021, those figures more than doubled their nearest prime time news competitor (the aforementioned “20/20” from ABC).

“CBS Sunday Morning” marked its 18th consecutive year as the #1 Sunday morning news program (since 2003) across viewers and all key demographics. For Fall 2021, it delivered 5.532 million viewers, with 930,000 of them in adults 25-54. That success has transferred to its lead-out “Face The Nation” with host Margaret Brennan, as it earned the honor as the most-watched public affairs broadcast for the second straight year. 3.17 million total viewers, on average, tuned in to “Face The Nation” this fall, ahead of ABC by 271,000 viewers and of NBC by 327,000 viewers.

The recently-revamped “CBS Mornings” with Gayle King, Tony Dokoupil, and Nate Burleson continued to improve upon recent weeks. For Dec. 13-17, it posted 2.6 million viewers (largest since August 2021), 578,000 of them in the adult 25-54 demo (best since May 2021), and 325,000 among women 25-54. In addition, the Dec. 18 edition of “CBS Saturday Mornings,” which reported on the rise of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant and the several closures because of it, delivered 2.11 million total viewers — the show’s largest mark since Feb. 6, 2021 (the day before the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl LV).

While more people watch ABC weekday mornings, advertisers still love NBC’s “Today.” For Dec. 13-17, the morning program drew 877,000 viewers within the 25-54 demographic, a +37,000 advantage over runner-up ABC’s “GMA.” “Today” has won 324 out of the last 329 weeks (a 6 year+4 month span) based on adults 25-54.

As an aside, Bret Baier anchored the Dec. 19 edition of the Sunday morning program “Fox News Sunday” — that delivered 1.01 million total viewers and 241,000 adults 25-54. That was a decline of -100,000 total viewers and -25,000 in 25-54 from the previous Sunday, where its former regular anchor Chris Wallace had announced his departure from Fox’s news department. Wallace will soon reappear on the upcoming streaming service CNN+, which will launch in early 2022.

Cable news averages for December 13-19, 2021:

Total Day (December 13-19 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.379 million viewers; 213,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.727 million viewers; 77,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.517 million viewers; 99,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.204 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.144 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.123 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.114 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.105 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (December 13-18 @ 8-11 p.m.; December 19 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.241 million viewers; 336,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.347 million viewers; 156,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.665 million viewers; 132,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.205 million viewers; 67,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.162 million viewers; 50,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.142 million viewers; 32,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.142 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.048 million viewers; 5,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (Fox News Channel, Wed. 12/15/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.457 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (Fox News Channel, Tue. 12/14/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.423 million viewers

3. The Five (Fox News Channel, Mon. 12/13/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.332 million viewers

4. The Five (Fox News Channel, Tue. 12/14/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.266 million viewers

5. The Five (Fox News Channel, Wed. 12/15/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.259 million viewers

6. The Five (Fox News Channel, Thu. 12/16/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.173 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (Fox News Channel, Mon. 12/13/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.119 million viewers

8. Hannity (Fox News Channel, Wed. 12/15/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.016 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (Fox News Channel, Thu. 12/16/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.950 million viewers

10. The Five (Fox News Channel, Fri. 12/17/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.923 million viewers

16. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 12/14/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.428 million viewers

144. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Tue. 12/14/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.013 million viewers

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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With Nielsen, Is There Life After 54?

If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers.



A photo of a laptop displaying the Nielsen logo

There’s been some discussion of late about whether it’s time to change the standard demos that Nielsen uses for reporting radio audiences. 

Dan Mason began the debate a couple of months back with an argument for three demos: 12-19, 20-40, and 41-64. Steve Allan at Research Director has added his thoughts with the suggestion that Nielsen drop persons 6-11 and 80+. Beyond the lack of buyer interest in these demos, he sees it as a backdoor way to increase the PPM sample. Perhaps because more discussion is a good thing, I’ll offer my two cents.

There is likely no way that Nielsen will ever remove the 6-11 and 80+ PPM panelists even though the data are essentially meaningless for radio. PPM is now used for both audio and video. In the latter, PPM measures out-of-home audiences for local TV in the metro areas of DMAs. Remember that TV measures down to the age of two and while Arbitron never dropped that low (can you imagine a three-year-old with a PPM?), the design was that PPM would measure both radio and television. Because video likes a big number, the 80+ issue is probably off the table as well.

Let’s move on to Dan Mason’s suggestions. Radio has been battling with the “you’re dead at 55” issue for decades. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I was the operations manager of WSPA-FM in Spartanburg, South Carolina which ran the beautiful music/easy listening format. I clearly remember Ted Dorf at WGAY in Washington (same format) starting a 35-64 committee, the goal of which was to show the value of the older audience and bring dollars into that demo. That was more than 40 years ago and nothing much has changed. 

Even with the lack of dollars for older demos despite the incredible spending power of the boomer generation, why can’t Nielsen offer more “standard” demos? In the “old days”, there were limitations based on processing software and even the size of the printed ratings report (remember the horizontal Arbitron books?). Today, the E-book is barely used and processing power is essentially unlimited. 

The limitation may reside in the systems used by Nielsen to process the local markets. The old Arbitron processing systems were somewhat limited and rebuilding the system was usually behind other priorities. I do not know if Nielsen has updated the processing system, but if they have, it shouldn’t be hard to offer more “standard” demos, whether Dan Mason’s suggestions or others. If Nielsen has not updated the systems in the decade since the Arbitron acquisition, then we’re back to my recent column asking the paraphrased Ronald Reagan question of whether you’re better off now than you were ten years ago.

What about the third-party processors: other companies that use the Nielsen data, for example, agency buying systems? Nielsen can require certain data to be made available as part of the future licensing agreements for data access. Still, the companies would also have to make software changes that will take time.

Let’s make the generous assumption that these changes will take place. Who wins? It seems that most radio formats would do well if at least one buying demo went up to age 64. And yes, I know 35-64 has been available for decades, but let’s consider Dan’s 41-64 for the moment. News/talk will be helped along with classic rock (how many classic rock songs were recorded after the mid-80s?). 

Those of us who are older don’t act like our parents (full disclosure: I do not fall in any of Dan Mason’s new demos) so I can see Adult Contemporary, Country, Urban AC, and other formats doing well. Public radio has also been aging so it may be easier to sell underwriting and their outside offerings that can carry spots. The various commercial Christian formats should look good, too.

Where does this leave us? If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers. Assuming Nielsen can make the software changes in a reasonable period of time, it’s up to the industry to convince agencies and advertisers of the value of these new demos over the ones they’ve used literally for generations. That will be no easy task, but making the data easily and readily available will help.

Let’s meet again next week.

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The Latest Example of How to Not Produce a Debate

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening.



A photo of the Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy in the 2nd debate
(Photo: Sachin José)

As if it couldn’t get any worse, it did. For the first time since it’s been my job to watch a Presidential debate for a living, I turned one off. After 82 minutes (9:22 p.m. CST, not that I was watching the clock or anything), I had enough. I couldn’t subject myself to the torture that became the second GOP Presidential debate on Wednesday night from the Reagan Library.

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening, and there are multiple reasons why, beyond the usual bemoaning of “the candidates won’t stop talking over each other.”


The debate was overproduced. In the opening there were videos of Reagan (nice and well done, don’t get me wrong), each anchor had various lines they were reading between each other, which felt forced and unnatural, and as a result, it took over three minutes from the opening of a debate to a candidate finally speaking.

I understand TV isn’t radio, but in a PPM world, imagine taking three minutes to get to your content, when people are tuned in at that moment to consume the content you’ve been hyping up and promising for weeks. Time is a zero-sum game. Every minute a candidate is not speaking, because a moderator is, or a pre-produced piece is playing, can’t be gotten back.

Give people what they came for. A 15-second welcome, a 60-second introduction of the candidates, if that, and dive into the questions is a 90-second process. Keep these things moving and give the viewers what they came for. And that’s the candidates.

No Direction

The debate lacked direction and clarity. Anchors spent far too much time asking long-winded questions with ridiculous and unnecessary details. As a viewer, it came across like the anchors were trying to impress us, rather than asking a question, getting out of the way, and letting the candidates — you know, the people running for President — try to impress us. They’re the ones who I want to be impressed by because they’re the ones we’re being asked to vote for.

Also, the topic direction had little flow and was disjointed. On certain topics, only one to three candidates would get to answer questions on the issue. I’ve laid out the case for keeping the flow of a debate and moving it along, but only giving half the stage the chance to answer questions on the most pressing issues in the country is a disservice to the voter who is there to here what everyone had to say.

At one point in the debate, Chris Christie was asked about a looming government shutdown, which was followed by a childcare cost question to Tim Scott and then it was an immigration/dreamers question back to Chris Christie. And that was in a five to seven minute span. Huh?

Rather than finding the six to seven big topics and diving into them with each candidate, while letting the candidates then organically and respectfully spar, it was like watching an ADD-riddled teen try and bounce between topics with no clarity or purpose.

And Yes, the Candidates

Of course, there were plenty of these moments that typically derail debates, notably primary debates, where multiple people are talking over each other and no one is willing to give in to be the first one to shut up. Then, the debate begins to inevitably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher and suddenly the obnoxious noise even makes your dog look at you and wonder what in the hell you’re watching.

There were too many candidates on stage and then the moderators also ended up losing control, like what happened last go around.

But as I wrote last month, this debate format is a broken system. But for some reason, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. 

Ronald Reagan was rolling over in his grave watching that debacle last night. It’s too bad he’s not still here to try and help fix it. 

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3 Ideas to Turn CNN Max Into a Streaming News Juggernaut

The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight.

Jessie Karangu



A photo of the CNN Max logo

It is so easy to find a gamut of stories and opinion pieces within the past year or two criticizing many different aspects of CNN and the way it operates. Many of those evaluations have been absolutely fair. 

Now though, it is time to give CNN credit where it is due.

This week marked the launch of CNN Max and it has been as seamless as a fresh glazed donut coming straight out of the oven. The stream’s video quality is crisp. Commercials are inserted properly. Most of the exclusive programming feels exactly like something you would see on linear CNN.

But the most fascinating thing Warner Bros. Discovery has been able to pull off is the ability to stream most of the same programming that airs on domestic CNN via Max. It is a stroke of business genius and puts the company and network ahead of its counterparts when it comes to offering a quality streaming alternative. As has been mentioned in the past, the network has been able to bypass MVPDs and stream their primetime anchors without permission from cable operators because CNN Max is mostly a direct simulcast of CNN International which airs U.S. programming live overnight while Europeans are in bed. 

Despite the successful launch, there are still some tweaks that could improve the product exponentially. One major benefit would be to have replays of programs that viewers may have missed from earlier in the day. Each show on serves a specific purpose and although similar coverage of news is told throughout the day, each anchor has a unique way of stringing the narrative together. Viewers deserve to get the chance to see how a story develops throughout different parts of the day and see specific segments in its entirety that may not get clipped for social media.

Viewers also need a chance to fully sample CNN Max’s exclusive programming and at the moment, if you don’t watch it live you’ve missed it forever.

Speaking of clips, it’s important for highlights of the day to be available quickly within the Max ecosystem. On CNN Max’s first day, Kasie Hunt scored an exclusive interview with Sen. Joe Manchin that made headlines.

Unfortunately, the only way a viewer could see it if they missed it live was if they scoured the network’s website for it or waited for a clip that the social media team would eventually put out. Part of being a modern-day news organization requires accessibility to be at its best at any given time of the day.

If viewers have a difficult time finding out the major highlights of what’s been on air, it may be harder to convince them to try a new product.

Viewers also deserve the opportunity to subscribe to alerts. News breaks on a consistent basis and unless you’re scrolling through your social media feed all day 24/7, it is almost impossible to follow everything that’s happening. Max needs to provide an option for specific types of alerts dealing with breaking news or major storylines that have developed live on air on CNN Max with the option to tune in now or to see clips or full episodes that deal with a specific headline. Alerts will increase engagement and maintain a relationship with the consumer they may not be able to get at another major entertainment app that streams similar programming as Max.

Promotion within the app is also important. While Max did an awesome job of showcasing the various shows that are live at any point during the day, it used the same graphics of the same hosts with the same descriptions every day. Viewers who read promos on entertainment apps are used to seeing different plot lines and convincing pictures showcased once a week whenever a new episode of their favorite show is ready for viewing. Max needs to treat news stories in the same fashion.

As stories break throughout the day, Max needs to promote their live programming with information blurbs containing new developments and questions that viewers might get answered by tuning in. Show previews could also promote featured guests. Using the same stale graphic of a host, show name, and generic show description will eventually become stale and annoying for viewers. Viewers will unfortunately train their minds to ignore the static messaging.

Warner Bros. Discovery also needs to take advantage of CNN Max’s predecessor. CNN Plus was able to maintain a decent amount of followers on social media – at least 35,000 on Twitter. Turn that page into a promotion spot for CNN Max that aggregates clips, promos, and previews of what viewers can expect on Max or what they may have missed.

As the brand develops a presence on social media, it will also develop name recognition among future cord-cutters who are deciding between Max and other services. The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight. CNN Max can be additive to cable ratings if people have an understanding of where and how to access it. 

CNN Max is creating a direct relationship between the consumer and CNN. It’s a relationship that has always had a middleman. Unfortunately for the cable industry, the middleman is slowly dissipating away.

With this newfound bond, the network should take advantage of the digital real estate it has access to and create real interaction with viewers. Optional polls, factoids, written descriptions of stories on screen, or even biographies of the guests on air at any given time could provide viewers with an extra reason to stay tuned in. It keeps viewers occupied and helps elongate the amount of time viewers spend on the stream and the app as a whole. 

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