Sunday, September 24, 2006

Network Nightly News vs. Cable

I was curious where people got there news from, so I decided to investigate. I wanted to know how the cable news audiences compared with the nightly network news shows.

According to, on Sept 20 the NBC Nightly News had 8.2 million viewers, and CBS and ABC each had 7.5 million viewers (for a total of 23.2 million). On the cable side the largest audience was for The O'Reilly Factor with 2 million (or 3.1 million if you include his rebroadcast) viewers. So the network audiences are still much larger than any particular cable show, but their audiences are going down steadily (as seen in the graph) due to the internet and cable news.

If you take a look at the numbers you see that only 30% of the nightly news viewers are between the age of 25-54. I am going to assume that not many of the news viewers are under 25, so that means almost 70% of nightly news viewers are over 55. For O'Reilly it is even worse at almost 75%.

The State of the Media has lots of good numbers on the news media. They report that cable news channels have 2.7 million prime time (7-11pm) viewers and 1.6 million daytime (6am-6pm) viewers. Doing the math, this works out to 2.7 million * 4 = 10.8 mil man hours + 1.60 million * 12 = 19.2 mil man hours, 10.8+19.2 = 30 million man hours of cable news watched each day. In comparison, the network nightly news shows have 27 million viewers that watch for 1/2 an hour each night which is 13.5 million man hours of news watched. In aggregate therefore cable news is watched more than the nightly news. But this might not be the best comparison as it excludes the morning and weekly magazine news shows the networks do.

Fox News has almost all of the highest rated shows as seen in this rating of all cable news shows in August, and only 11 shows have an audience of over 1 million a day. Interestingly, while Fox News has the largest audiences for their shows, CNN actually attracts more unique viewers each month. Fox News viewers tend to watch for longer amounts of times which explains how this is possible. Although Fox News dominates the news ratings, it is important to keep in mind they are only getting around 1-1.8% of all households watching TV.

The State of the News Media also reports the following sizes for other news show audiences:
3 million for PBS's NewsHour (with 8 million unique viewers each week)
Morning News shows: Today 6 million, Good Morning America 5.3 million, Early Show 2.7 million, for a total of 14 million
Sunday morning talk shows: 4.3 million for Meet the Press, 3.2 million for Face the Nation, 2.6 million for This Week and 1.4 million for Fox News Sunday, for a total of 11.5 million
News magazines: 60 Minutes has 14.9 million viewers, Dateline 9.7 million, 20/20 8.8 million, 48 Hours Mystery 7.4 million, Primetime 6.7 million, Nightline 3.9 million and 3 million for Frontline

The Daily Show has an estimated 1.3 million viewers each night (of which nearly 2/3 are 18-49).


crush41 said...

Outside of Fox News, the 24 hour news channels are really lilliputian. 300,000 viewers in a country of 300 million. That works out to a paltry one in a thousand.

Interestingly, news/talk radio dominates all TV in terms of total listeners. Rush Limbaugh, who is still king, puts up 12 million or so unique listeners per week (if memory serves).

If you're interested in the trends for younger generations, I vaguely recall a comment on parapundit where I referenced a Pew report showing a large generational disparity in where people get their news from. Not surprisingly, the internet was tops for 18-24.

mping said...


Good point on news/talk radio. Limbaugh has an audience of 13.5 million according to Wikipedia which makes his audience larger than any of the nightly network news shows.

I think lots of people watch the local news as well, but I wasn't able to find nationally aggregated numbers.

Anonymous said...

Limbaugh is on the radio? I thought he was on fox news

I only know about limbaugh because of the parodies on colbert and daily show. I've never actually listrened to his show.

13 million? How is this measuresd. Who uses am radio anymore. Don't these people have cd or mp3 players? I find it hard to belive that many people listen to the radio ket alone one single show

Anonymous said...

I think Crush represents many Limbaugh critics in that he has never heard the show. He gets his impression from Colbert and Daily.

Anonymous said...

I have never listened to his show, and despise him mainly from video and audia clips I've seen on FOX. I am fairly certain they portray Limbaugh in his most favorable light.

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