Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fox News dominates the ratings.

In the December 30, 2009 article "Fox News Channel establishes ratings dominance over rivals in 2009," Brett Michael Dykes reports that Fox broadcasts the ten most popular cable news programs:
Love 'em or loathe 'em, and there seems to be little in between, 2009 was a remarkable year for Fox News Channel. Despite being ensnared in seemingly weekly controversies involving accusations that its coverage of the Obama administration was laced with right-wing political bias, the year-end numbers are in, and they show Fox News establishing dominance over rivals CNN and MSNBC. In short, 2009 was the best year in the network's 13-year history.

According to Nielsen, the ten-most-watched cable news shows in 2009 were all Fox News programs. With conservative-leaning opinion shows like "The O'Reilly Factor," "Hannity," and "Glenn Beck" leading the way, Fox News' average daily prime time viewership rose 8 percent in the coveted 25-54 demographic from its 2008 level. Also, the network's straight news programs, "Special Report with Bret Baier," "The Fox Report with Shepard Smith," "Studio B with Shepard Smith," and "Your World with Neil Cavuto," all scored their best years ever in 2009. In fact, every single show on the network saw a double-digit increase in ratings from 2008 in the 25-54 demographic.

Meanwhile, CNN, which has been positioning itself lately as cable news' voice of objectivity, and MSNBC, which has recently moved a bit further to the left, struggled comparatively in 2009. For the first time in its history, CNN ranked third in the 25-54 cable news prime time demographic, down 9 percent from 2008, while MSNBC dropped 3 percent in the same category but gained the second-place slot. Additionally, CNN and MSNBC ranked 23rd and 24th among all cable networks in total prime time viewership, while Fox News finished third overall behind only USA Network and ESPN.

Fox News' apparent rout in the 2009 cable news ratings race defies the expectations of media watchdogs and critics like Media Matters' Eric Boehlert, who predicted a "very rough" road for the network after charging that it had become a "broadcast partner with the (Bush) White House." The thinking behind most predictions of Fox News' demise was that the country's ideological shift to the left would cause the network to shed viewers.

"The point is that Fox News years ago made an obvious decision to appeal almost exclusively to Republican viewers," Boehlert wrote. "The good news then for Fox News was that it succeeded. The bad news now for Fox News is that it succeeded."

While predictions of its demise fell short, Fox News did weather numerous public relations storms in 2009. The network garnered stinging criticism on everything from Glenn Beck calling President Obama a racist and relentlessly promoting gold as an investment while working as paid spokesperson for a company that sells gold, to Sean Hannity altering footage of a conservative rally, to President Obama charging that the network was "entirely devoted to attacking" his administration.

Beck particularly enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence on the national stage in 2009, partially by establishing himself as a bit of a political organizer of the "Tea Party" movement. An increasingly polarizing figure, a recent Gallup poll placed Beck fourth among the most admired men by Americans, trailing only President Obama, former President George W. Bush and South African leader Nelson Mandela. Media Matters, however, recently bestowed Beck with the dubious distinction of being 2009's "Misinformer of the Year."

Irrespective of the broad spectrum of opinions about the channel and its on-air personalities, Fox News scored a ratings bonanza in 2009, a ratings bonanza that appears to prove that being the voice of the opposition is actually much better for business than a lot of people thought it would be.


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