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NewsNation Hits Milestones With Republican Primary Debate

It was also the first time the network reached the weekly top ten cable news programs for adults 25-54.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the NewsNation logo
(Photo: NewsNation)

Donald Trump was absent from yet another Republican primary debate, and on Dec. 6, it was the least-watched debate of the 2024 election season, to-date. Nonetheless, it provided significant milestones for the outlets that carried the debate, Nexstar-owned networks NewsNation and The CW.

Across both networks, the fourth GOP primary debate combined for 4.216 million total viewers including 874,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Here is a rundown of the linear TV viewerships of the political debates through Dec. 6:

  • Aug. 23, 2023 (Fox News): 12.8 million viewers; 2.82 million adults 25-54
  • Sep. 27, 2023 (Fox News + FBN + Univision): 9.32 million viewers, 2 million adults 25-54
  • Nov. 8, 2023 (NBC): 6.86 million viewers, 1.31 million adults 25-54
  • Nov. 30, 2023 (Fox News): 4.747 million viewers, 742,000 adults 25-54
  • Dec. 6, 2023 (CW + NewsNation): 4.216 million viewers, 874,000 adults 25-54

The fourth GOP primary debate — held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moderated by NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, SiriusXM’s Megyn Kelly, and the Washington Free-Beacon’s Eliana Johnson — featured Gov. Ron DeSantis (FL), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (SC), former Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (OH).

It did manage to outdraw one debate in the 25-54 demo: DeSantis-Newspm from Nov. 30 (the Fox News debate where Vargas joked in a publication interview that she “[deserved] a gold medal for sticking with it.”)

For NewsNation, at 1.598 million viewers, it was their most-watched telecast ever, since the nascent news outlet officially launched on March 1, 2021. It was also the first time the network reached the weekly top ten cable news programs for adults 25-54 (as indicated in the rankings below, it placed runner-up.)

2.618 million saw it on The CW — the network’s largest live-plus-same-day total viewer figure since the Nov. 28, 2017 episode of The Flash (2.82 million). 

Males accounted for 57 percent (497,000) of the debate’s 25-54 crowd, which was approximately on par with each of the prior Fox News debates  (55-58 percent of their respective 25-54s were male.)  NBC’s Nov. 8 GOP debate had close to a 50/50 male/female split for their key 25-54 demo.

NewsNation’s 2-hour post-debate analysis from 10 PM to midnight drew 559,000 viewers (including 124,000 adults 25-54). That’s a 35 percent retention from the debate, which is a lesser rate than the post shows at Fox News and NBC (each 47 percent) on their respective GOP primary debate nights.

However, local news airing on several CW affiliates immediately following prime time also offered their own debate analyses. While no exact figures were available, Nielsen fast affiliate data (released at 11 AM Eastern on Dec. 7) indicated local programming on CW from 10-10:30 p.m. averaged 1.24 million viewers, nearly retaining 52 percent from CW’s 9:30-10 p.m. portion (2.4 million) of the debate.

Once again, MSNBC and CNN offered their own post-debate coverages — although on MSNBC that, evening, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell from 10:06-10:22 PM eastern — and each saw increases from its previous hour, as also had occurred in the recent past:

August 23, 2023

  • MSNBC 10-11 p.m.: 1.922 million viewers
  • MSNBC 11 p.m.-midnight: 2.720 million viewers (+41.5 percent)
  • CNN 10-11 p.m.: 0.736 million viewers
  • CNN 11 p.m.-midnight: 1.516 million viewers (+105.97 percent)

September 27, 2023

  • MSNBC 10-11 p.m.: 1.676 million viewers
  • MSNBC 11 p.m.-midnight: 2.203 million viewers (+31.4 percent)
  • CNN 10-11 p.m.: 0.529 million viewers
  • CNN 11 p.m.-midnight: 0.778 million viewers (+47.1 percent)

November 8, 2023

  • MSNBC 9-10 p.m.: 1.490 million viewers
  • MSNBC 10-11 p.m. 2.348 million viewers (+57.6 percent)
  • CNN 9-10 p.m.: 0.642 million viewers
  • CNN 10 p.m.-midnight: 0.853 million viewers (+32.9 percent)

December 6, 2023

  • MSNBC 9-10 p.m.: 1.429 million viewers
  • MSNBC 10-11 p.m. 1.841 million viewers (+28.8 percent)
  • CNN 9-10 p.m.: 0.466 million viewers
  • CNN 10 p.m.-midnight: 0.934 million viewers (+100.4 percent)

In late-night, the debate reran on NewsNation at midnight-2 a.m. ET and again at 4-6 a.m. ET to audiences of 131,000 viewers and 50,000 viewers, respectively. A rebroadcast of the post-debate analysis at 2-4 a.m. ET delivered 49,000 viewers.

Cable news averages for December 4-10, 2023:

Total Day (Dec. 4-10 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.193 million viewers; 133,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.779 million viewers; 76,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.427 million viewers; 80,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.145 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.143 million viewers; 42,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.119 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.112 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.104 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.084 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • Court TV: 0.043 million viewers; 11,000 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. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.164 million viewers

2. Rachel Maddow Show “Liz Cheney Interview 930-959” (MSNBC, Mon. 12/4/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.149 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 12/4/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.922 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.834 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 12/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.761 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.737 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 12/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.664 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.611 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 12/7/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.527 million viewers

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 12/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.430 million viewers

39. Republican Primary Debate (NWSN, Wed. 12/6/2023 8:00 PM, 120 min.) 1.598 million viewers

144. AC360 Post Debate Special “NewsNation Alabama GOP Primary Debate 12/6/23” (CNN, Wed. 12/6/2023 10:00 PM, 120 min.) 0.934 million viewers

180. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 12/8/2023 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.769 million viewers

317. Rob Schmitt Tonight (NMX, Mon. 12/4/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.451 million viewers

363. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 12/10/2023 11:00 PM, 38 min.) 0.360 million viewers

375. Kudlow (FBN, Thu. 12/7/2023 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.340 million viewers

378. The Daily Show “Dec 5, 23- Charlamagne Tha God” (CMDY, Tue. 12/5/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.334 million viewers

415. Forensic Files (HLN, late Sat. 12/9/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.287 million viewers

454. Closing Bell (CNBC, Wed. 12/6/2023 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.260 million viewers

523. Highway Thru Hell “Crazy Horse” (TWC, Sat. 12/9/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.232 million viewers

888. FBI Files (COURT TV, late Sun. 12/10/2023 12:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.109 million viewers

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

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.375 million adults 25-54

2. Republican Primary Debate (NWSN, Wed. 12/6/2023 8:00 PM, 120 min.) 0.359 million adults 25-54

3. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.288 million adults 25-54

4. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 12/6/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.273 million adults 25-54

5. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 12/7/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.263 million adults 25-54

6. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 12/4/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.260 million adults 25-54

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 12/5/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54

8. Rachel Maddow Show “Liz Cheney Interview 930-959” (MSNBC, Mon. 12/4/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.249 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.248 million adults 25-54

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 12/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.242 million adults 25-54

12. AC360 Post Debate Special “NewsNation Alabama GOP Primary Debate 12/6/23” (CNN, Wed. 12/6/2023 10:00 PM, 120 min.) 0.238 million adults 25-54

63. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 12/8/2023 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.158 million adults 25-54

113. The Daily Show “Dec 5, 23- Charlamagne Tha God” (CMDY, Tue. 12/5/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.131 million adults 25-54

137. Forensic Files (HLN, late Wed. 12/6/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.120 million adults 25-54

173. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 12/10/2023 11:00 PM, 38 min.) 0.109 million adults 25-54

418. Highway Thru Hell “Still Got It” (TWC, Sat. 12/9/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.058 million adults 25-54

421. Cities of Success “Nashville” (CNBC, Wed. 12/6/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.057 million adults 25-54

454. FBI Files (COURT TV, late Sun. 12/10/2023 12:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.054 million adults 25-54

710. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Fri. 12/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.028 million adults 25-54

732. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 12/8/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.027 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

What to Do When Your Fear Your Media Career is Headed to the Graveyard

If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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A photo of a graveyard

“Do you guys ever think about dying?”

If you saw the Barbie movie, you know the line. Barbie is living the perfect and perfectly plastic life, perfectly choreographed and full of perfect smiles.

But the movie turns on that one line, basically shattering Barbie’s world with a concept no one there would ever have considered.

Death.

Why would you consider it when everything seemed in perfect order?

Well, when it comes to broadcasting and media, a lot of you think about dying … a lot. I do, too.

Of course, it’s not the stop breathing and get buried type of death but rather, the death of a career in media.

The truth is, when it comes to our business, very few people get to choose when it ends. Take a minute and consider a major media personality who truly “retired” after a multi-decade career.

It happens, but percentage-wise, it’s rare.

Take a minute and think. Name some. Name one. It’s not easy.

More often than not, you will get laid off or fired before you want to leave, and after a certain age, getting that next opportunity may be a bridge too far.

Then, you are done done.

That’s as much a music stopper as Barbie admitting she has considered her own mortality in the middle of the dance floor. Here on planet Earth, at least from the people in my orbit, the death of a media career often leads to even better professional options and more balanced lifestyle choices.

I have friends doing a million different things: Public relations, crisis management, content creation for large companies, political communications, fundraising, and teaching. Almost all of them tell me that it was such a stress relief to have a “normal” life, to not be worried about every pending contract or new boss.

Their work is appreciated. Their job is stable. And their schedule? Normal. Never has “normal” sounded so lovely than when they talk about watching shows with spouses, going out for a drink on a Tuesday, or having a regular pickleball game (or insert any middle-aged recreational sport).

I believe them.

Sort of.

The “sort of” comes from me not being able to actually envision that for myself. As enticing as it would be to see people on a more accessible schedule or play a weekly game with buddies, nothing beats talking and writing for a living. Nothing. And I am going to hang on until the lights are out, and we can’t pay to get them turned back on.

For me, I’m in too deep. I’m an indoor cat, incapable of survival outside.

Meetings. Deadlines. Reliant on other people. Meetings.

I’d be dead in a week. It’s beyond no, thank you. It’s, “I can’t”.

Sure, I have three teenagers and three college tuitions to pay. And two dogs. Two cars. And a mortgage.

Here’s where I am supposed to tell you that you should not only have thoughts about (career) death but also have a survival plan – a professional media-career living will if you would.

I should tell you that because you should.

But I don’t have one. And I don’t want one.

Why?

Because I don’t want to think about death anymore. I mean, I’ve already died twice. It wasn’t fun, and the third time most likely would be the charm in terms of getting me out of the business for good.

Why so stubborn? I don’t know.

Several times, I’ve said to myself, I need to make sure I have a backup plan … just in case. Each time, I find a reason not to get one.

Ultimately, what’s my point? Get a backup plan. Think about death. But it can’t take away from the essential joy of having the privilege of talking for a living. In that vein, don’t take it for granted. Ever. Even if the pay stinks and the schedule stinks. If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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BNM Writers

Is the Fairness Doctrine Even Possible in Today’s Media Landscape?

Is it right for media consumers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news?

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A photo of an equal scale

As many media outlets shutter their doors, some have clamored for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Newsweek released the results of their new way to connect with readers, by asking if its reporting is “fair.” Since September 2023, readers were asked to judge stories on the site, 78% said the outlet is “fair.” Another 22% found at least one story they read to be “unfair.”

AllSides Media has judged Newsweek to be center. However, let’s not forget they are the same outlet that wrongly claimed President Donald Trump was golfing on Thanksgiving in 2019. As Sheryl Attkisson noted on Full Measure this week, on Thanksgiving in 2019 President Trump was visiting troops in Iraq and the Newsweek story was fabricated.

While the reader assessment of Newsweek’s content is on par with AllSides Media, is it right for readers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news? If outlets like The Daily Caller (Right) or Vox (Left) would ask the same of their readers, would their echo chamber subscribers find them “fair?” While historically print (and later digital) outlets could (and still can) embrace the political leanings of their owner(s), from 1949 till 1987 TV news had guidelines they must adhere to: The Fairness Doctrine.

Long before Americans argued about bias in news, every TV outlet (there were only three major ones at the time) would follow “The Fairness Doctrine.” The Reagan Library notes the doctrine was “enforced by the Federal Communications Council, [and] was rooted in the media world of 1949. Lawmakers became concerned that the monopoly audience control of the three main networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, could misuse their broadcast licenses to set a biased public agenda.”

To put it simply, the Fairness Doctrine made it so all sides of any story were presented. In 1985, under the Reagan Administration, the FCC found “the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Two years later, a panel under FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick repealed the Fairness Doctrine unanimously.

Keep in mind, at this point in time, CNN was the first and only 24-hour news network in the United States (it launched on June 1, 1980). Fox News wouldn’t be launched until almost 10 years after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, on October 7, 1996.

Also happening at this time, large corporations (with lobbying power) were buying media outlets. General Electric purchased NBC in 1986. Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995. One year later, ABC was bought by Disney. These purchases did not go unnoticed. Saturday Night Live even mocked the acquisitions in a now-banned short called “Conspiracy Theory Rock!: Media-opoly.”

The unwillingness of news organizations to cover both sides of a story has led to the creation of biased outlets including: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, OAN, Newsmax, and others. None of these would be able to exist in their current form if the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t repealed.

News outlets that aren’t overtly biased use another trick to manipulate their viewers/readers, using emotionally charged verbiage. AllSides Media defines sensationalist words as presenting information in a way that gives a shock or makes a deep impression. This includes words like “shocking”, “heart-breaking”, “explosive”, “scathing”, “chaotic”, “desperate”, and “remarkable”… this list goes on but you’ve seen and heard these words from the news outlets daily. This is the media telling you how to react to a story instead of letting you determine how you actually feel after they present the facts of the story.

Today, what’s most concerning are outlets saying ‘fair and balanced’ news is a disservice to the public. An August 2023 NPR article explored just this, saying “Objectivity actually comes from an accurate examination of facts (actions, documentation, and even educated opinions) presented in transparent reports. Often, that coverage should also encourage audiences to examine supporting evidence for themselves.”

The problem with this is three-fold:

  • Selective fact presentation develops a one-sided narrative
  • An “educated opinion” is not a fact. It’s an opinion that is neither right nor wrong.
  • It is impossible for human beings to be completely unbiased (see January 31st column)

While it’s great Newsweek is asking readers if their reporting is ‘fair’ is the reader’s judgment neutral, or just as biased as the outlet they prefer to read? Sometimes when we are clicking to satisfy our own confirmation bias it’s hard to tell.

What the media and all Americans need to start recognizing is their own echo chamber. Knowing we all have some sort of bias is not a flaw but what makes us human. Our flaw is the inability to recognize our bias yet call out others for being biased just because they are on the other side of an issue.

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CNN Sees Biggest Viewership Jump During Super Bowl Parade Shooting Coverage

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the CNN logo
(Photo: Getty Images)

The cable news outlets got increased viewership from two different news events during the week of Feb. 12, namely the shooting at the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, of the mass shooting at the Super Bowl celebration parade in Kansas City for the Chiefs football team. One person died and roughly two dozen others were injured.

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

The following are what each network drew as the story unfolded on that Feb. 14 afternoon from Kansas City and how it grew from the same Wednesday time slots from Jan. 3 thru Feb. 7:

Fox News Channel

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.656 million viewers (+18 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 1.873 million viewers (+34 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 3.175 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 2.441 million viewers (+12 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 2.250 million viewers (+4 percent)

MSNBC

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.008 million viewers (+10 percent)
  • 4-6 p.m.: 1.504 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 1.763 million viewers (+17 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 1.474 million viewers (+13 percent)

CNN

  • 3-4 p.m.: 0.762 million viewers (+27 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.913 million viewers (+35 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 1.007 million viewers (+28 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 0.985 million viewers (+43 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.960 million viewers (+29 percent)

Newsmax

  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.343 million viewers (+23 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 0.354 million viewers (+16 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.547 million viewers (+13 percent)

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the results were announced for the special election race for New York’s third congressional district between its former representative Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican challenger Mazi Pilip. Suozzi left office in 2022 to run in the New York gubernatorial election but lost out to incumbent Kathy Hochul. Suozzi’s successor in Congress was the infamous George Santos who was officially expelled from office on Dec. 1, 2023 over charges of federal criminal laws including campaign finance fraud.

MSNBC and CNN were the only major national news outlets that provided live coverage of the special election results, stressing the significance of Suozzi’s eight-point win over Pilip as it reduced the GOP’s advantage in the House of Representatives by one.

From when the voting polls closed in New York at 9 p.m. ET, MSNBC easily topped CNN in total viewers at 9 p.m. (1.616 million viewers vs. CNN’s 0.847 million), 10 p.m. (1.903 million vs. CNN’s 0.879 million), 11 p.m. (1.112 million vs. CNN’s 0.541 million), and at midnight (774,000 viewers vs. CNN’s 299,000).

From 9-11 p.m. ET, though, both MSNBC and CNN scored the same performance among the key 25-54 demographic: a 0.15 rating at 9 p.m. and a 0.18 rating at 10 p.m. (Note: a 1.0 rating in 25-54 equates to 1.21 million viewers within the aforementioned age range.) 

For the 10-11 p.m. hour, when the New York candidate speeches had aired, CNN grew by 68 percent (in viewers) and by 80 percent (in 25-54) from its Tuesday 10-11 p.m. hour output from Jan. 2 thru Feb. 6 — a time period that included a Ron DeSantis town hall and New Hampshire primary results.

MSNBC was up as well at 10 p.m. hour — +16 percent in viewers, +33 percent in the 25-54 demo — using the same reference parameters.

Even though Fox News did not offer live coverage of New York’s special election results, Hannity at 9 p.m. (2.528 million viewers; 0.21 A25-54 demo rating) and Gutfeld! at 10 p. m. (2.357 million viewers; 0.31 A25-54 demo rating) still held the top spots in their respective hours on all of cable news.

Source: Nielsen Media Research

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