MSNBC has beaten the competition in terms of audience growth consistently for the last twelve months. So it should come as no surprise that MSNBC’s tally for 2006 shows not only the highest gain over 2005, but the only gain amongst cable news networks.
As usual, it was Keith Olbermann’s Countdown that fueled the increase. Countdown was up 60% in total viewers and 67% in the 25-54 demo. Keith’s nemesis, Bill O’Reilly, can still boast about being the number one program on cable news, but those footsteps he hears are not the pitter-patter of the Culture Warrior Youth.
If you kiddies are looking for something constructive to do, here’s a project for you:
Fox News is currently renegotiating its contracts with cable carriers. They have been lumbering under one of the worst deals in the business because they were desperate for carriage when they started out. Now they believe that they are entitled to substantial upgrades. On the surface, they have a pretty good case since they are the top cable news network. But as this marketing burst is coming at a time when they are also the fastest declining network, cable operators should not be bullied into accepting sky high licensing fees. If Fox was stupid enough to lock themselves into low fees in their formative years, cablers should learn from that and not lock themselves into high fees while Fox is sinking.
This would be a good time to write your local cable company and stress that you are not willing to pay more to have continued access to Fox News. Any deal that they make with Fox must not result in an increase of your monthly fees. If that happens, you will quickly cancel and get a dish.
The end result of this is not to keep Fox off of the air. The cable companies are surely going to re-up with the current Nielsen leader. But you can have an impact on their profitability by giving your cable operator the ammunition to bargain Fox down. So sharpen those pencils and let your carrier know that you will not tolerate rate increases to fatten the wallets of a network you don’t even watch.