It has been a long campaign, but the tally is finally in. Last week Keith Olbermann’s Countdown beat the O’Reilly Factor every day in the key 25-54 audience demographic. Here is the five day average for the primetime cable news programs:
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I have been reporting on the performance of the cable news programs for almost three years. Most of that time I have made the case that Fox News is an old world dinosaur that is consistently underperforming the competition. Although it was also the number one news network, it was either losing viewers or growing slower than CNN and MSNBC. This year alone saw year-over-year gains of 70% for MSNBC, 66% for CNN, but only 36% for Fox. The trends all pointed to an eventual takedown which I predicted would occur before the end of this year.
Well, it’s November, and my prediction has been validated. There have been multiple occasions in the past few months where MSNBC beat Fox intermittently. The Foxbots all clung to the belief that these were irrelevant blips that would amount to nothing. But now Countdown took an entire week of regular programming (meaning there were no guest hosts or preemptions). This is as clear a signal as there can be that the landscape is shifting.
In addition to Olbermann’s success, the new Rachel Maddow show burst out of the gate to great acclaim and ratings. She beat Fox’s Hannity & Not Hannity 3 out of 5 nights, and took the whole week prize as well. For the week, the one-two punch of Olbermann and Maddow delivered a nightly win to MSNBC on 3 out of 5 nights, and a tie for the full week in primetime.
As always, time will tell if these numbers endure. But they affirm the audience migration away from Fox News. Plus Fox has a much smaller percentage of viewers in the 25-54 demo (27%) than either CNN (38%) or MSNBC (42%). This means that advertisers will drift away from Fox’s older skewing audience. But it also means that the next generation of news consumers is forming their bond now with with other networks, particularly MSNBC.