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Cable News Channels Saw Massive Spikes During Alex Murdaugh Verdict

Even the prime time lineup of nascent news outlet NewsNation got a sizable bounce, especially for “Cuomo”, which achieved its most-watched edition in total viewers, to-date.

Doug Pucci

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The Alex Murdaugh double-murder trial came to a conclusion on the evening of Thursday Mar. 2, Murdaugh, a member of a prominent South Carolina family and former attorney, was found guilty of shooting and killing both his wife Maggie and their youngest son Paul at their residence, and cable news outlets benefited greatly.

The court case that riveted the nation throughout the month of February was, of course, covered by many news outlets including broadcast and cable news as well as the various syndicated newsmagazines like Inside Edition and TMZ.

Leading the pack in cable news coverage was Fox News Channel. Normally topping the 7-8 p.m. hour with Jesse Watters Primetime on this night that hour delivered 3.51 million total viewers including 443,000 within the key 25-64 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. A far distant runner-up in total audience was MSNBC with 1.37 million; in adults 25-54, CNN (243,000) was closest to FNC among cable networks.

All three outlets drew at well above-average levels within the 7 p.m. hour and the few hours afterwards due to the verdict, as the following percentage increases show in comparison to their prior week (Feb. 20-24, 2023) returns:

Fox News Channel

  • Jesse Watters Primetime (7-8 p.m.): 3.511 million viewers (+32%); 443,000 adults 25-54 (+65%)
  • Tucker Carlson Tonight (8-9 p.m.): 3.346 million viewers (+9%); 449,000 adults 25-54 (+15%)
  • Hannity (9-10 p.m.): 2.852 million viewers (+18%); 404,000 adults 25-54 (+37%)

MSNBC

  • The Reidout (7-8 p.m.): 1.373 million viewers (+24%); 156,000 adults 25-54 (+42%)
  • All In with Chris Hayes (8-9 p.m.): 1.515 million viewers (+39%); 153,000 adults 25-54 (+53%) (for Feb. 20-24, MSNBC aired nightly hourlong specials in the 8-9 p.m.slot marking the one-year anniversary of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine)
  • Alex Wagner Tonight (9-10 p.m.): 1.317 million viewers (+6%); 145,000 adults 25-54 (+26%)
  • Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (10-11 p.m.): 1.544 viewers (+15%) viewers; 118,000 adults 25-54 (-9%)

CNN

  • Erin Burnett Outfront (7-8 p.m.): 1.130 million viewers (+89%); 243,000 adults 25-54 (+91%)
  • Anderson Cooper 360 (8-9 p.m.): 1.183 million viewers (+79%); 191,000 adults 25-54 (+48%)

Even the prime time lineup of nascent news outlet NewsNation got a sizable bounce, especially for “Cuomo”, which achieved its most-watched edition in total viewers, to-date.

  • On Balance with Leland Vittert (7-8 p.m.): 123,000 viewers (+146%); 44,000 adults 25-54 (+389%)
  • Cuomo (8-9 p.m.): 231,000 viewers (+116%); 49,000 adults 25-54 (+227%)
  • Dan Abrams Live (9-10 p.m.): 160,000 viewers (+44%); 29,000 adults 25-54 (+32%)
  • Banfield (10-11 p.m.): 180,000 viewers (+82%); 40,000 adults 25-54 (+135%)

CBS was the lone broadcast network whose breaking news coverage of the Murdaugh verdict was published by Nielsen. It delivered 3.824 million viewers from 7:04-7:14 p.m. Eastern; that night’s edition of the CBS Evening News which preceded the special report on many CBS affiliates in the Eastern and Central time zones had drawn 5.11 million.

Cable news averages for February 27-March 5, 2023:

Total Day (Feb. 27-Mar. 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.375 million viewers; 177,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.693 million viewers; 76,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.446 million viewers; 84,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.148 million viewers; 38,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.114 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.114 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.109 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.092 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (Feb. 27-Mar. 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; Mar. 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.087 million viewers; 253,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.130 million viewers; 106,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.530 million viewers; 105,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.203 million viewers; 48,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.159 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.134 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.115 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.099 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.061 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54

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

1. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.511 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.346 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 2/27/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.313 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.189 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/1/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.133 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 2/28/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.087 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 2/27/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.076 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 2/28/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.009 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/1/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.943 million viewers

10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 3/3/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.899 million viewers

21. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 2/27/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.383 million viewers

120. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Thu. 3/2/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.183 million viewers

181. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 626” (HBO, Fri. 3/3/2023 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.738 million viewers

360. The Daily Show “Mar 1, 23 – Hasan Minhaj” (CMDY, Wed. 3/1/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.378 million viewers

375. Varney & Company (FBN, Thu. 3/2/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.344 million viewers

379. Highway Thru Hell “(1108) Deep Freeze” (TWC, Sun. 3/5/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.335 million viewers

424. Forensic Files (HLN, late Sat. 3/4/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.269 million viewers

425. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Tue. 2/28/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million viewers

460. Cuomo “Alex Murdaugh Verdict” (NWSN, Thu. 3/2/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.231 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/1/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.459 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.449 million adults 25-54

3. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.443 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 2/27/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.417 million adults 25-54

5. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.404 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 2/28/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.403 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/2/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.362 million adults 25-54

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 2/27/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.359 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 2/27/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.351 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/1/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.340 million adults 25-54

29. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 2/27/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.263 million adults 25-54

32. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Thu. 3/2/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.243 million adults 25-54

105. The Daily Show “Mar 1, 23 – Hasan Minhaj” (CMDY, Wed. 3/1/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.154 million adults 25-54

145. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 626” (HBO, Fri. 3/3/2023 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.124 million adults 25-54

241. Forensic Files (HLN, late Wed. 3/1/2023 2:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.094 million adults 25-54

342. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 713” (CNBC, Thu. 3/2/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.072 million adults 25-54

385. Weather Underground (TWC, Fri. 3/3/2023 2:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.064 million adults 25-54

487. Cuomo “Alex Murdaugh Verdict” (NWSN, Thu. 3/2/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.049 million adults 25-54

609. Mornings with Maria Bartiromo (FBN, Mon. 2/27/2023 8:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.034 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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In News/Talk Radio, Sometimes It’s Ok to Break the Format

Sometimes, it’s ok to skip a break or two if the content is so compelling that you know your listeners can’t get enough.

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photo of radio switchboard

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. As hosts, we spend hours preparing for our radio shows. Reading, listening, and consuming news of all kinds. Putting together a road map for every program. Figuring out where potential guests might fit into each hour, if at all. It’s a daily puzzle, but occasionally we have reminders that plans can, and should, go up in flames when appropriate.

Last week was a week of chaos in Kansas City, as one woman was killed and nearly two dozen injured, including one dozen children, following a shooting shortly after the Chiefs Super Bowl parade wrapped up in front of Union Station.

As broadcasters, we are asked to give the facts to update the public on a minute-by-minute basis as to what is happening in their community, but then, as talk show hosts, we are also required to opine and create engaging content around the tragic news that impacts our communities.

It’s a fine line to walk, at times, especially considering the amount of misinformation that can rapidly circulate on social media, with far too much attention being given to being “first” rather than being “right”.

And while we are working to navigate news that is constantly changing, when there’s a moment to “break the clock”, so to speak, it’s worth doing.

Friday morning, 36 hours after the shooting, FS1’s Nick Wright offered to come on my show to debate gun control, which he had been advocating for on his platforms since Wednesday afternoon. 

I had used my social media to refute many of his points, which led to his suggestion that he join my show that morning and debate on the air. The entire backstory was written about here on Barrett News Media

This came together 30 minutes before he appeared on the air. And there goes the show plans.

The conversation began at 8:05 am, and I thought to myself, if this is going well, I will keep him through a break and wrap around to the bottom of the hour.

It became apparent in the first 60 seconds that this was not going to be a hold-over conversation and that it was going to be intense. At that point, I decided to let the conversation ride as long as it felt like it was engaging content for the audience. 

That meant three breaks and the news reports had to go. Don’t worry, sales staff, we made it all up!

But I also did something I usually don’t do, I monitored our KCMO Talk Radio stream in real-time, which was jumping 15-20% each quarter hour as the conversation continued.

As for the content of the conversation, you can listen to that on our podcast and determine for yourself how you feel it went (and I’d be open to your critical feedback). 

But from a radio formatics standpoint, there are times, albeit very infrequently, when breaking the clock and the format of the hour makes sense. It has to be a feel, as much as anything else, but remember, with real-time streaming numbers that you should have access to, you can use the immediate technology available to you to at least get one data point that might clue you into if your gut is right.

In the meantime, keep hitting your breaks, getting your spots in on time, and playing by the PPM-friendly rules. Your GM, sales manager, and program director will appreciate it.

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Saluting Black Broadcasters: Arthel Neville, Fox News

“Black History Month is a time to focus and remember that we should embrace commonalities. We have more in common than not as a human race.”

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A photo of Arthel Neville

True to herself and true to the truth, Arthel Neville has graced TV screens for over 20 years. From hosting entertainment news, to acting, and for the last 10 years anchoring at Fox News, Neville said her successful career is thanks to, “A lot of hard work and it worked out and paid off.”

Growing up in New Orleans, music and celebrities we a part of Neville’s life, thanks to her famous musician father, Art Neville. Despite the fame, the Neville’s kept home life humble. “He was always daddy. He’d come home, he’d help me with my homework in the daytime because his work was at nighttime. He helped clean the house and mow the lawn and just regular stuff.” She later added, “I was always exposed to celebrities and people who had not your standard jobs, if you will. But I was always raised to just be humble, and it always just normal to me. So that was no different than if your dad went to work at a bank every day.”

After high school, Arthel Neville went to Xavier University, where she turned pre-pharmacy and made the Dean’s list. But while she was in school, “I was doing some local commercials in New Orleans. I got a regional, commercial for Burger King at the time. In my first year of college, I took a gap year.”

Neville went to New York and stayed with her dad’s friends and gave acting a full-time shot.

“I went up there and did the cattle calls like everybody else but I also got an opportunity to work on Saturday Night Live as an extra,” Neville said. She also appeared on All My Children but after 12 months, “I knew my mom told me, ‘You have one year and you have to go back to college.’ So I said alright. I didn’t get this really major part in the soap opera and then I knew that was time to go.”  

Transferring schools, Arthel Neville landed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She picked the school because “At the time Dallas had a major production facility complex. So I could work to help pay for my college.” She put together a tape and a colleague connected her with a KVUE Executive Producer.

KVUE hired Neville and she transferred to the University of Texas. For two and a half years, she went to school and worked as a full-time student and full-time general assignment reporter. Neville said of the time, “I would go to class from 8 AM to 1 PM and then I go to work from 1:30 PM to 10:30 PM.” She later added, “My days off at the time were Tuesday and Wednesday because, you know, low man on the totem pole then. So you see this cycle of just nonstop working and working and rarely I would get a holiday off my vacation time.”

Neville did the market climb until she got her national break  as an entertainment reporter on E! “I had my own celebrity one-on-one celebrity interview show for E!. This was before everybody and their grandmother was doing celebrity interviews. So it was a really big deal and it was a 30-minute show. So again, that was a big deal.” She later added,  “I’m still very, very proud of that work to this day. Really quality work. So once you get on that plane, offers start to come in. You get a lot of attention.”

Arthel Neville made appearances on several shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Moesha, and Monk. She noted, “You’re a celebrity at that point and then they call you in and word got around that I can act. So I kept getting the calls and I had a lot of fun doing that. I loved it, really a lot of fun.” She added, “After a while, I decided to leave the entertainment space and get back into hard news because I figured that that is what would provide the most longevity.”

Over the years, Neville has covered thousands of stories. But the most meaningful to her is her work after Hurricane Katrina.

“As a journalist, the story is not about us. When that story was about me, that was personal. That was my hometown ravaged and that was we lost. We lost a collective of ten family homes. I will say no one [in my family] died in this storm, thank God.”

Arthel Neville later added, “I mean, there are times when I’m out there just in a boat going to my house, I’m going to break down because I’m a person. Even writing the story had a lot of crying. I did [cry] some on camera because I’m not trying to make it about me, but I’m also a person. But mostly off-camera. That was the most difficult assignment of my life because it was personal.”

Arthel Neville has made history several times in the industry. At E!, she became the first African-American woman to host a nationally syndicated entertainment news magazine program. More recently being awarded the DeWitt Carter Reddick award from Moody College of Communications in 2017, their first African American female honoree.

When asked what Black History Month meant to her she focused less on race and more on what commonalities we, the human race, have.

“I am a Black woman 12 months of the year, 365 days of the year. So Black History Month is nice for other people who don’t walk my path and live my life to maybe stop, and focus on people who have created created a pathway not just for me, but for you and everybody else. It’s not just for Black people. People who have come in before us, who have made things better for the country.”     

She later added, “Black History Month is a time to focus and remember that we should embrace commonalities. We have more in common than not as a human race. So stop it with the looking at people from the perspective you think they’re different from you because they look different. We’re all human beings and let’s take that. Take this month to focus on that. Love each other.”

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Radio — The Communication Business Where We Don’t Communicate

Corporate policies are cold and rigid.

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When I was a radio program director in the 1970s and 80s personally responding to job applicants was an important part of every work day. Nobody told me to do it, it was just obvious. Replying to letters from people who mailed me their personal introductions, resumes, and airchecks was as important to me as if they had made an appointment and were seated in my office, freshly scrubbed, smiling with hope, and making their best first impression.

Every afternoon I read their letters and resumes. I listened attentively to their carefully packaged tapes as if mining for a rare gem, which I was. I wrote encouraging letters to them whether I had a possible job for them or not. I took unexpected phone calls from job applicants.

Why wouldn’t I? These were passionate broadcasters offering their unique, hard-earned experience. They respected our station and were excited for an opportunity to join us. Besides, I’d been in their position myself and would be again. These hopeful young talents deserved my attention. To me, as a program manager, it was my primary responsibility.

None of this happens anymore. Radio job seekers today have to run a gauntlet of dehumanizing corporate job websites. When you’ve filled in all the blanks and linked the resume you spent hours perfecting you hold your breath and click “submit”. You did it! The website immediately gives you the impersonal assurance that your application has been received. You wonder if that’s true. You may never really know.

Bob Helbig is the media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. He recently found that while 60% of employers surveyed said they felt they regularly communicated with applicants, only 28% of job seekers said they felt the communication was sufficient.

Corporate policies are cold and rigid. I recently talked with a major market talk radio program director who asked to remain anonymous, which in itself tells the tale. He told me he’s not even allowed to take word-of-mouth recommendations for new hires. Email and phone inquiries are out of the question. When somebody tells him, “Hey, I know a great reporter you should talk to,” all he can reply is, “Please tell them to apply online.” The most he can do is file a name in his memory and hope it pops up in the HR-approved list of candidates.

Back in the day, I would have phoned that reporter and invited him or her to come in and talk.

As a job applicant, you know you face strong competition. All the career websites offer volumes of advice about how to prepare a strong resume to stand out from the crowd. You’ve done that. You plug it into the web portal, hoping to make an impression. You count the days since you submitted your application and check your email many times daily hoping for an encouraging reply from a real human, maybe even from the big-name program director who holds the key to your future.

Patience. You have to wait still longer.

After a few days, you wonder if a real person has even seen your application or if the algorithm is just weeding people out. Yes, indeed it is.

Artificial Intelligence now entering the process might speed things up a bit but it won’t help your need for human contact. God forbid AI takes over the screening process entirely but you can’t rule that out.

Nobody writes or calls even to say, “Thanks for your interest, we’ll get back to you.” You’re left to wonder if your love of radio, your hard work, and your beautifully written pitch even landed before a real person’s eyes.

The worst part is knowing that hearing nothing is nothing personal.

Jeff Altman is a career coach and host of the No BS Job Search Advice Radio podcast. He told Forbes, “The hiring process has been turned into sausage-making. People apply for jobs through an applicant tracking system where they are expected to homogenize their experience so they are plucked from the thousands of others. They are asked the same questions by most employers until, eventually, they are chosen and onboarded.”

How did we get to this complex and impersonal process? Laws, of course. Federal and state mandates to prevent any form of discrimination in hiring practices are good things but they don’t allow for human integrity and discretion. They’re ironclad. The difficulty for HR departments lies in making sure that the rules are followed to the letter by management employees who are not lawyers. The list of federal regulations alone is long and daunting.

“For instance, you can’t ask questions that reveal a person’s race, gender, religion, marital status, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, or age on an application or during an interview. This information could lead to biases and discrimination in the hiring process.”

Those restrictions are fairly obvious these days but they’re just the tip of a large iceberg, most of which is hidden below the surface and beyond the limits of what program directors, news directors, sales, and other radio managers are expected to know. So, yes, the software is asking only legally acceptable questions before any live interviews can take place.

I really hate being the “back in my day” old fart but my god, is there no way we can allow a young person to walk into a radio station with stars in her or his eyes, and talk to somebody about their future?

Must we expect job applicants of the 21st Century to understand that’s just the way things are or could the process be massaged a bit to keep them hopeful and feeling less like a piece of uninspected data?

Would it be so hard to send job applicants a pleasant and somewhat personal email along the lines of: “Hi, Mark. I’m in the H.R. Department at BigTime Media and I want to thank you for your application for our on-air opening at News/Talk 95.3 WTF. I will call or text you when your qualifications have been reviewed and let you know whether you can expect a follow-up live interview with somebody at the station. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. – Sincerely, Mary Sunbeam, BigTime Media”.

Sure, it’s another form letter but at least it addresses the applicant by name, refers to the specific station, and gives them a sense of humanity and hope for future contact. Assigning applicants to a real-life personal H.R. staff member like Mary Sunbeam might require a little more effort but it would be an enormous boost to the company’s reputation.

There might be other ways to go about it. The point is people need to feel their applications are worthwhile and accepted with some degree of sincere gratitude.

The ugly irony is we’re in radio, yet we talk to people, not with them.

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