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The Weather Channel Ratings Quadruple During Hurricane Hillary

Weather Channel delivered its most-watched week in 11 months — since Hurricane Ian hit Florida on Sep. 28, 2022.

Doug Pucci



A photo of the Weather Channel logo

The hurricane season of 2023 has been unique in that it affected Hawaii and the West Coast first. The fires in Maui back in early August were fueled by hurricane winds from the Pacific Ocean. By mid-August, Hurricane Hillary peaked at Category 4 strength but lessened to a tropical storm as it made landfall in Southern California — the area’s first in 84 years. The Weather Channel tracked Hillary on Aug. 20. From 1 PM to midnight ET, coverage averaged 473,000 viewers including 119,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research — approximately quadruple the figures the network draws on a daily basis.

Then, in late August, the Category 3 Hurricane Idalia was headed towards the southeast, including Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It’s the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Big Bend region, the nook between the panhandle and peninsula, in more than 125 years. Italia was also the third hurricane to hit the state of Florida within the past 12 months.

Weather Channel delivered its most-watched week in 11 months — since Hurricane Ian hit Florida on Sep. 28, 2022. Coverage tracking Idalia began on Tuesday, Aug. 29th for an average of 713,000 total viewers including 181,000 adults 25-54.

When Idalia made landfall in Florida on the following Wednesday morning, Aug. 30th, an average of 1.19 million viewers and 265,000 adults 25-54 had tuned in from 8 a.m. to noon Eastern; its 9 a.m. hour ranked eighth for the week among cable news within the demo. As the following ratings track indicates, most of those who watched in the morning stayed with Weather Channel throughout the early and late afternoon hours:

  • 7:00-8:00 a.m. ET: 0.973 million viewers; 246,000 adults 25-54
  • 8:00-9:00 a.m. ET:  1.216 million viewers; 270,000 adults 25-54
  • 9:00-10:00 a.m. ET: 1.335 million viewers; 288,000 adults 25-54
  • 10:00-11:00 a.m. ET: 1.183 million viewers; 275,000 adults 25-54
  • 11:00 a.m.-noon ET: 1.033 million viewers; 228,000 adults 25-54
  • Noon-1:00 p.m. ET: 0.888 million viewers; 211,000 adults 25-54
  • 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET: 0.786 million viewers; 172,000 adults 25-54
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET: 0.723 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET: 0.721 million viewers; 152,000 adults 25-54
  • 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET: 0.755 million viewers; 178,000 adults 25-54
  • 5:00-6:00 p.m. ET: 0.647 million viewers; 143,000 adults 25-54
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET: 0.542 million viewers; 123,000 adults 25-54
  • 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET: 0.477 million viewers; 139,000 adults 25-54
  • 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.438 million viewers; 134,000 adults 25-54

Cable news averages for August 28-September 3, 2023:

Total Day (Aug. 28-Sep. 3 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.095 million viewers; 130,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.860 million viewers; 86,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.515 million viewers; 104,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.283 million viewers; 71,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.172 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.136 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.120 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.117 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.054 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54

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

  • Fox News Channel: 1.714 million viewers; 199,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.351 million viewers; 133,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.609 million viewers; 131,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.261 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.087 million viewers; 18,000 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. 8/30/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.819 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.775 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/29/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.728 million viewers

4. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/28/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.711 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 8/31/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.685 million viewers

6. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.584 million viewers

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 8/30/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.572 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 8/29/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.490 million viewers

9. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 9/1/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.422 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 8/30/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.405 million viewers

71. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Wed. 8/30/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 1.335 million viewers

147. Inside Politics (CNN, Wed. 8/30/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.913 million viewers

453. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 9/1/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.334 million viewers

466. Forensic Files (HLN, Sat. 9/2/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.305 million viewers

553. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Mon. 8/28/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.225 million viewers

733. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sat. 9/2/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.151 million viewers

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

1. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.354 million adults 25-54

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/29/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.348 million adults 25-54

3. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.335 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.334 million adults 25-54

5. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 8/30/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.328 million adults 25-54

6. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Mon. 8/28/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.310 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 8/30/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.298 million adults 25-54

8. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Wed. 8/30/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.288 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 8/30/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.287 million adults 25-54

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/29/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.287 million adults 25-54

15. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/28/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.273 million adults 25-54

25. The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN, Tue. 8/29/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.229 million adults 25-54

312. Forensic Files (HLN, late Sun. 9/3/2023 1:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.090 million adults 25-54

533. The Exchange (CNBC, Mon. 8/28/2023 1:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.051 million adults 25-54

620. Duck Family Treasure (FBN, Sat. 9/2/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.041 million adults 25-54

641. Cuomo (NWSN, Fri. 9/1/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.040 million adults 25-54

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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