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Fourth of July Cable News Specials See Slight Drops From 2022

Doug Pucci



A photo of the American flag next to a lit sparkler

Fourth of July celebrations of America’s independence were on full display on the cable news channels during the week of July 3.

For the third consecutive year, CNN presented its The Fourth in America concert and fireworks special in prime time. This year, it was hosted by Dana Bash, Boris Sanchez, Victor Blackwell, and Cari Champion and featured performances from Alanis Morissette, Darius Rucker, Demi Lovato, Post Malone, Shania Twain, Brad Paisley, Ludacris, and The United States Air Force Band. The viewer track of the all-night, coast-to-coast celebration was, as follows, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  • 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET: 0.674 million viewers; 139,000 adults 25-54
  • 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.714 million viewers; 183,000 adults 25-54
  • 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET: 1.112 million viewers; 265,000 adults 25-54
  • 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET: 0.767 million viewers; 199,000 adults 25-54
  • 11:00 p.m.-midnight ET: 0.601 million viewers; 168,000 adults 25-54
  • midnight-1:00 a.m. ET: 0.510 million viewers; 149,000 adults 25-54

The six hours averaged 730,000 viewers including 184,000 within the key 25-54 demographic.

On the downside, this marked declines of 12 percent (in total viewers) and 9 percent (in adults 25-54) from last year; it was down even steeper from just two years ago: -44 percent (in total viewers) and -38 percent (in adults 25-54).

But one significant positive — perhaps as a reflection of today’s linear viewing patterns trending downward, despite the potency of news programming on TV — the 9 p.m. hour of CNN’s “The Fourth in America” was the week’s top cable news telecast among adults 25-54 (the first time ever the special has done so in its respective holiday week for the past three years); the 10 p.m. hour ranked ninth for the week.

In addition, the holiday helped lift CNN to the week’s No. 1 cable news outlet spot in prime time based on the key 25-54 demo.

Fox News Channel managed to outdraw CNN in total viewers in prime time (FNC’s 1.08 million from 8-11 p.m. vs. CNN’s 864,000) to be the most-watched in cable news on July 4th.

FNC’s A Big Independence Day Celebration from 8-10 p.m. drew 1.216 million viewers which included 96,000 adults 25-54. Its total audience was nearly on-par with its 2021 edition (1.241 million) but shed nearly half of its key demo from two years ago (167,000). Their 10 p.m. special was entitled Home of the Brave (806,000 viewers; 59,000 adults 25-54).

MSNBC reaired its news special Love and the Constitution (274,000 viewers) from 8-10 p.m.

But as the country hosts many celebrations, it’s also a somber holiday as gun violence has become more prevalent within the past decade. CNN’s website published a report that July 4 is the deadliest day of the calendar year for mass shootings.

It was just one year ago that seven were gunned down at a parade in Highland Park near Chicago. This year around the holiday, there were mass shootings in Fort Worth, Shreveport, and Philadelphia.

In southwest Philly, on the evening of July 3, a disguised shooter used a rifle to fire randomly at vehicles and pedestrians, killing five people and wounding two others. In the afternoon of July 4, the Philadelphia Police Department held a press conference (from 3:08-3:25 p.m. ET) detailing the incident and that the suspect had been detained. Fox News Channel led cable news in televising the press conference with 914,000 viewers.

It was not noted as a special report by Nielsen on CNN nor MSNBC, but for the 3-4.p.m. hour, CNN delivered 592,000 viewers and 125,000 adults 25-54 (which bested the 94,000 drawn by FNC in the aforementioned 17-minute period); MSNBC, from 2-4 p.m., posted 459,000 viewers and 48,000 adults 25-54.

Cable news averages for July 3-9, 2023:

Total Day (July 3-9 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 0.975 million viewers; 109,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.599 million viewers; 62,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.424 million viewers; 82,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.155 million viewers; 41,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.148 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.109 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.098 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.085 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.050 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (July 3-8 @ 8-11 p.m.; July 9 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.215 million viewers; 103,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.856 million viewers; 82,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.543 million viewers; 110,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.230 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.076 million viewers; 13,000 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. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.563 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 7/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.398 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 7/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.364 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 7/3/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.120 million viewers

5. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 7/6/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.892 million viewers

6. Special Report with Bret Baier (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.701 million viewers

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.692 million viewers

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 7/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.677 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.676 million viewers

10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.637 million viewers

13. Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC, Thu. 7/6/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.592 million viewers

80. CNN’s 4th In America “2023” (CNN, Tue. 7/4/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.112 million viewers

365. Forensic Files (HLN, late Sun. 7/9/2023 1:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.325 million viewers

428. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 7/3/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.260 million viewers

498. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Thu. 7/6/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.218 million viewers

558. Mayday: Air Disaster “(202) Miracle Escape” (TWC, Sun. 7/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.188 million viewers

625. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 7/5/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.153 million viewers

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

1. CNN’s 4th In America “2023” (CNN, Tue. 7/4/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.265 million adults 25-54

2. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.263 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 7/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.257 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.257 million adults 25-54

5. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Wed. 7/5/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.219 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 7/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.218 million adults 25-54

7. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Fri. 7/7/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.209 million adults 25-54

8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 7/6/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.205 million adults 25-54

9. CNN’s 4th In America “2023” (CNN, Tue. 7/4/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.199 million adults 25-54

10. Fox & Friends Saturday (FOXNC, Sat. 7/8/2023 8:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.198 million adults 25-54

21. All In with Chris Hayes (MSNBC, Wed. 7/5/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.162 million adults 25-54

129. Forensic Files (HLN, late Thu. 7/6/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.107 million adults 25-54

403. Closing Bell (CNBC, Thu. 7/6/2023 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.059 million adults 25-54

473. Weekend Recharge (TWC, Sun. 7/9/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.048 million adults 25-54

494. Legends & Lies (FBN, Tue. 7/4/2023 1:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.047 million adults 25-54

627. Dan Abrams Live (NWSN, Wed. 7/5/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.030 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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As History Unfolds, It’s Important for News/Talk Radio to Remain Focused on Playing the Hits

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward.



A photo of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

The age-old radio adage is to “Play the hits”.

It applies more directly to music stations, but the phrase can also relate to sports talk and news/talk. So, suppose you’re like me, and you’ve found yourself behind a microphone on a news/talk station the last couple of weeks. In that case, you might be having an internal conversation about whether you’ve focused too much on the national political discourse since the unforgettable Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden debate on June 27th.

My short answer is: No, you’re not too focused. 

But in an effort to not stop this column at 100 words, I’ll explain further.

I’ve long advocated for focusing your local shows on your local radio markets as much as possible. It will separate your show from the national syndication that can be piped into any station nationwide. Your local flair is what will build your credibility in your community. It’s what will separate you. Local will win. 

And given that it’s been an unusually predictable few months in the election news cycle, there hasn’t been much to lean into on the national political side. Joe Biden was the unimpressive, octogenarian incumbent going up against Donald Trump, who rolled quickly through a primary and was set to be at the top of the Republican ticket for a third-straight election cycle. It was a rematch of 2020, a period in American history most Americans would prefer to forget, given the state of the nation at the time. Unfortunately for many, they are being forced to relive it. 

However, what happened two weeks ago in Atlanta between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has given a massive jolt to an election season that had been relatively boring. Tens of millions of Americans were tuned in that evening, and given Biden’s debate performance, it has kicked off two weeks of speculation of Biden dropping out, party infighting, replacement conversations, various media reports, and drama that we haven’t seen around an incumbent President in an election year since 1968.

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward engagingly and entertainingly while also, when appropriate, bringing on guests who will provide them with insight they can bring to their conversations with friends, at the water cooler, on group texts and on social media.

In a perfect world, you can also localize these national stories by getting reactions from local officials, reading/playing their social media reactions on your show, or if you’re in a swing state, your options beyond that are unlimited.

But now that we are in a national news cycle that has been on fire, don’t force yourself into local talk. Find your top local stories that are compelling and impacting your radio listener’s day-to-day lives, and work to blend it with the historical moment we find ourselves living through on the national political stage. And always be working your hardest to think of and find new angles, while moving the story forward.

In the end, just like your local CHR station has to play Taylor Swift multiple times an hour, you need to give your audience what they want and “Play the hits.” We’re living through history, after all.

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James Golden AKA Bo Snerdley Relishes New Nationally Syndicated Weekend Show

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”



A photo of James Golden
(Photo: James Golden)

Radio host, radio executive, producer, author, and a jack of all media trades. Since he was 14-years-old James Golden (AKA Bo Snerdley) has devoted his entire life to the media industry.

The on-air talent’s weekend show —The James Golden Show — just became syndicated through Red Apple Audio Networks.

“I really appreciate having the platform that WABC has provided. It’s a wonderful thing to have a show that’s now in a bunch of different markets and growing! It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Long before Golden hit the airwaves as ‘Bo Snerdley’ on The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a teenager visiting his cousin, DJ Gerry Bledsoe, at work. “It was a mind-blowing experience for me. So many things happened that day. In fact, that day was when one of the older guys there, the guy who’s had a reputation as being a real grumpy, curmudgeon type guy, for some reason, took a liking to me.”

He let Golden into the show where Golden learned how to cut tape. “It took me a lot of years before I actually got a job, and ironically, it was at the same station, doing marketing and research, looking at ratings and learning how to analyze ratings and learning how to do marketing. Later on, I moved into the programming side and started doing music research.”

James Golden was one of the first in the country to do music research which led him to WABC. There he worked with the station’s transition from music to their first talk program.

“I think in life you’re given the sort of the things that you need to fulfill whatever destiny you have. I had always been interested in news, politics, and all of it. This dual love I had for music, it allowed me to transition when the station changed format and to become their senior producer of news. And it was at ABC some years later that I met Rush Limbaugh. And of course, that turned into a 30-year relationship.”

The Author of “Rush On The Radio,” recalled the first time the pair met. “So my first day working on his show, I brought him some news stories. I was in the habit of doing that before I even worked on his show. I developed a friendship. When I saw something interesting, that I thought he would be interested in and I would take it to him. So it was a smooth transition for me being rotated on the show.”

It wasn’t before long James Golden became Bo Snerdley. “So I walked in, dropped off some stories, and on the way out he says, ‘Well, everybody on this call screen has got to be a Snerdley, have you come up with your name?’ So The Daily News was on his desk, and it was on the sports page. Bo Jackson was in the news for some of the headlines, but I just wasn’t able watch it. So I just said ‘Bo’ and walked out. Little did I know that for the rest of my life, I’d be Bo. But it’s great and I love it. I’m comfortable with either one.”

Golden recalled the time spent with his friend saying, “No words can ever describe it. He was the best that there ever was to me, or ever will be in the industry. His talent, as he said, was on loan from God. But it was something unique. The incredibly intelligent, incredibly hardworking. 30 years in, he still brought it. Even when he was sick, [Rush] did as much of the work that he could to make sure that his show was extremely well researched and well delivered.”

While working on Rush’s show, James Golden also had his own weekend show. He worked 7 days a week for years. Today, he is back at his radio home. “Back at WABC, doing six days on air with them, and it’s just been a wonderful ride for me.”

Throughout the years, the former executive producer turned host has seen significant change in the industry.

“For some people, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. And I’ll just speak frankly about that. When the bean counters took over because of corporate interest — instead of it being a lot of different families with smaller radio groups, it moved into more of a big business — for a lot of people a lot of the fun was taken out of it, because those decisions that used to be made locally are now being made by regional managers or by national managers, some of whom had more of a background in sales and didn’t understand the programing,” he shared.

“So there’s always that schism. And so for a lot of people in the industry, I have friends who have left the industry because it just was no longer fun for them.”

Another big difference? You no longer have to work your way up through the markets.

“You had to work your way up through lower markets to get to a higher market. You don’t have to do that now. People that are just good at what they do, if they have very good communication skills, you can learn how to become [one of the] best radio hosts. There’s only one best radio host and [Rush] passed away, but it is still about your ability to tell a good story. To understand and to I think it really is how much you are in love with the medium yourself.”

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The Difference Between News/Talk Radio Programmer and Bureaucrat

The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets.

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Photo of Radio Board

Let’s talk about the worst aspect of every news/talk radio programmer’s job: commercial stops, those designed traffic jams that occur every ten or twenty minutes bringing your excellent content to a dead halt. And so, you wait, knowing full well that you’re losing a significant percentage of your audience to button pushers looking for a station where talkers are still talking and news is still being broadcast.

The way most news and talk radio stations operate today commercial clutter takes up 20-30 minutes of each programming hour. It would be nice to say that’s because your inventory is sold out thanks to great ratings but we know better. It happens because it’s allowed to happen. Some of that load is likely bonus spots and far too much of it consists of recorded promos that use branding phrases begging the listener to wait through the clutter.

Yes, commercials are necessary but there are some things to consider that might make them less annoying and potentially informative and entertaining.

Warning: old fart flashback straight ahead.

When I was a young program director I had the authority to reject any spots that I didn’t feel met our standards. Yes, I’m quite serious. I didn’t exercise the option often but if a spot was of lousy audio quality, badly produced, boring, or even just plain stupid, I could kick it back to the sales exec and/or ad agency and ask them politely to make it better.

You might think that could result in an impolite opposite reaction. It never did, not once. From time to time I talked with an advertiser or his agent and they always said the same thing: You’re the expert. I want my time and money spent well on your station.

Sales execs could get annoyed but usually went along as good teammates without too much grousing. Besides, schmoozing clients with better ideas is part of their art; the best enjoy it.

Often these conversations would lead to brainstorming sessions with the production director. (Remember that creative and crucial position?) Ideas were tossed around, writing began and a highly effective ad was usually the result.

If you’re a program director or air talent today your mind must be reeling. It has probably never occurred to you that you could have the authority to actually determine all of your news/talk station’s programming, not just the words between the breaks, every blessed minute. Why not? You’re responsible for your station’s content 24/7 though you have no control over half of it.

Most program directors in corporate-owned stations today have been hired as functionaries at the end of a long chain of corporate bureaucrats. Your days are filled with layers of programming and sales hierarchies. Presidents have lieutenants, regional and format V.P.s, who send out the memos and convene Zoom meetings to address general issues with generalized answers.

They dive into recent studies and charts for boilerplate policies, seldom suggesting anything bold or of local significance because they can’t, they don’t know your town. The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets. They’re smart enough to know that what worked in Boston might not fly in Amarillo – except in a vague, general way.

As a local PD today your log is bloated, your programming is filled with syndicated shows, and your hands are tied. 

Unless you have a creative fire in your belly and the guts to assert it.

Dream up great promotions that will excite your audience in your hometown. Enlist the members of your on-air, newsroom, and production staff. Invite them to a pizza place for some brainstorming. Don’t make it mandatory, suggest it will be fun and exciting because it will. Your crew will be happier and bubbling tomorrow. Before long fresh ideas will start trickling in regularly because everyone is enthused, involved, and feeling appreciated. You’ll all make each other’s great ideas even greater. You’re having fun and it’s contagious.

If you can ignite a spark of excitement and faith from your GM and sales department you might find yourself with the programming reigns in both hands.

You weren’t hired to be a clickbait expert, you are a radio expert. You know more about the stuff that comes out of the speakers than anyone else at the station. And you can identify problems and turn them into opportunities. You need to spend your days refining the product, not in endless meetings trying to implement generalized corporate buzzspeak into local program policy.

Attend the Zoom meetings, be a cheerful good soldier but if called upon speak your mind with truth and passion. It’s infectious.

Explain to your boss why you should be allowed to reduce the on-air clutter by as much as half and that you need to spend most of your time every day with your news and talk talent because they’re your stars. It’s why they pay you. The station and the community are all that matters to you.

Tell her/him you’ll read the interoffice memos faithfully and join digital meetings when you can but that the corporate culture will mostly just have to take care of itself.

And, oh, by the way, you need the authority to reject bad radio commercials.

You may not get everything you ask for but I promise you’ll earn some respect.

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