Fox News back on top in second quarter of 2008

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NEW YORK — Fox News is poised to reclaim the title of the most-watched cable news network in the key advertising demographic in the second quarter of 2008.

The cable channel attracted the most 25- to 54-year-old viewers in prime-time this quarter, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research data, drawing an average of 346,000 in that age group through Tuesday.

CNN, which was buoyed to first place last quarter by the presidential primaries, is back in second place with an average of 301,000 viewers in the demographic most sought after by advertisers. MSNBC is in third with 269,000. (Final numbers will be available next week.)

CNN’s win in the key demographic in the first quarter of 2008 marked the first such victory for the cable news network in more than six years, and its success with political coverage animated executives.


Bill Shine, Fox News’ senior vice president for programming, said his network regained the top spot in the second quarter because “we do better television than anybody else.”

“In the first quarter, CNN benefited from an intense Democratic race, but I think in the second quarter, after they spent millions and millions on sets and talent and graphics, it wasn’t enough for them,” he said.

Still, CNN’s viewership in the second quarter was up 24% in the key demographic, compared with the same period last year, while Fox News was down 1%. MSNBC’s audience was also up, spiking 46% year-to-year.

“The facts say it all: CNN is up 24% in prime-time, while Fox is down,” said CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson, who added that the network did not build new sets for its political coverage. “The trends are clearly in our favor.”

Fox News rejected the characterization that its audience was eroding, noting that its viewership was essentially flat.

“The only current trend is CNN losing their momentum and battling MSNBC for second place,” Shine said.

Overall, Fox News continues to pull in the largest cable news audience, drawing an average of 1.6 million prime-time viewers so far this quarter. CNN is in second with 977,000, while MSNBC pulled in 690,000.

-- Matea Gold