Olbermann tops Zahn in key sector

The folks at MSNBC’s Secaucus, N.J., headquarters had something to smile about Tuesday. For the first time in almost five years, the third-place cable news channel had a prime-time victory to crow about, albeit a small one: “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” beat CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now” in the key 25- to 54-year-old advertising demographic in the first quarter of 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The MSNBC show drew an average of 164,000 viewers in that demographic to CNN’s 156,000, as Olbermann, who has been engaged in a colorful feud with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, enjoyed an increase of 25% in total viewers compared with this point last year.

Even though MSNBC won in that demographic, CNN’s Zahn still won in total viewership. “Countdown” averaged 404,000 viewers versus 626,000 for Zahn on CNN, and both shows trailed Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor,” which had more than 2.27 million viewers, on average.