In the first quarter of 2013 the trends for cable news viewership are affirming past performance. And once again, Fox News is losing viewers at a faster rate than its competitors.
While remaining on top overall, Fox lost nearly 20% of its total audience as compared to the same period last year. Even worse, in the critical advertising demographic of 18-54 year olds, Fox scared off a full third of their viewers. Only MSNBC managed to stay relatively flat, holding onto most of their audience.
On specific programs, Fox’s top rated show, The O’Reilly Factor, dropped by 26%. His primetime colleagues, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren, similarly flopped by 28% and 35% respectively. That contrasts sharply with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show that increased 5%, the only program in its time period to rise.
These numbers attest to the downward spiral that Fox has been experiencing since last year’s election. They recognized the serious disconnect between them and the public as they scrambled to make personnel changes and ditch some of their most alienating personalities. That overhaul saw the departure of Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, and it resulted in far fewer appearances by Karl Rove and Donald Trump.
Those adjustments do not seem to have turned the ebbing tide that saw Fox sink to its lowest point in twelve years in January. Which is not surprising since their window-dressing alterations simply exchanged their past losers with characters like Scott Brown, Erick Erickson, and Mark Levin, who seem unlikely to have a positive impact.
Furthermore, MSNBC’s steady performance is poised for future gains as demonstrated by the debut of All In with Chris Hayes. The new Hayes program improved on the numbers of the Ed Schultz Show that it replaced (+45% in the demo), and fell just 10,000 short of O’Reilly’s numbers. Also notable is that the younger demo for Hayes represents about a third of his total audience, while O’Reilly’s demo viewers are a mere 14% of his total. That certifies the strength MSNBC has with the next generation of news consumers, and the weariness of the long-in-the-tooth O’Reilly/Fox fans.
Hopefully this is evidence that America’s television viewers are evolving to become a more discriminating audience that values truth, integrity, and intelligent discourse. The Fox model of leading viewers around by the nose, misrepresenting the facts, and aiming for the shallowest, most inflammatory slapfights on the air, may be losing its appeal (except on the Fox Nation web site). That would be a positive step forward and proof that humans are advancing in the passage of time. Thanks, Darwin.