Archive for the ‘ratings’ Tag

Ratings Are Important   Leave a comment

Neil_CavutoA commercial medium wants to sell ad space or time to businesses with products or services for sale. To make that sale, they need to be able to tell potential advertisers that their messages on the air, in print, or on the monitor screen will be viewed and heard by large numbers of consumers. And that’s where ratings come in.

Nielsen program ratings for cable news channels for April 2012:

  1. The O’Reilly Factor – Fox News — 2.87 million total viewers
    2. Hannity – Fox News — 2.075 million total viewers
    3. Special Report with Bret Baier – Fox News — 1.778 million total viewers
    4. On the Record with Greta van Susteren – Fox News — 1.722 million total viewers
    5. Fox Report with Shepard Smith – Fox News — 1.688 million total viewers
    6. The Five – Fox News — 1.674 million total viewers
    7. America’s Newsroom – Fox News — 1.272 million total viewers
    8. Your World with Neil Cavuto – Fox News — 1.252 million total viewers
    9. O’Reilly Factor (11PM) – Fox News — 1.22 million total viewers
    10. America Live – Fox News — 1.191 million total viewers
    11. Studio B – Fox News — 1.113 million total viewers
    12. Fox & Friends – Fox News — 1.082 million total viewers
    13. Happening Now – Fox News — 1.029 million total viewers
    14. The Rachel Maddow Show – MSNBC — 985,000 total viewers
    15. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell – MSNBC — 931,000 total viewers
    16. The Ed Show – MSNBC — 875,000 total viewers
    17. Hardball with Chris Matthews – MSNBC — 744,000 total viewers
    18. PoliticsNation – MSNBC — 712,000 total viewers
    19. Piers Morgan Tonight – CNN — 567,000 total viewers
    20. The Situation Room – CNN — 548,000

Notice that programs owned by News Corporation dominate the first 13.  The next five are NBC Universal programs and the bottom two in the top 20 list are Time Warner programs.

Bill O’Reilly has five times as many viewers as Wolf Blitzer. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing nor should it be considered evidence that Rupert Murdock is Satan. Ratings just show what people are watching. When I worked in newspapers as a journalist one of the things I learned was that advertisers often couldn’t care less about the politics of a program so long as their advertising gets seen. Advertisers do not, therefore, exhibit much influence over the news they advertise on. Viewers actually exert a lot of control with the power of their remote control.

Rupert Murdock is not a conservative by American standards, but Fox News Network has a strong right leaning bias. Some of that can be attributed to Roger Ayles, the CEO, who is a conservative, but more of it is attributed to who viewers are tuning into. Apparently viewers like Bill O’Reilly more than they like Chris Matthews, so advertisers, wanting their ads to be seen by the most people, buy advertising where the viewers are. If Murdock were to replace Ayles with Hendrick Hertzberg (for example), Hertzberg would do well to note the ratings of Fox’s media stable and not mess too much with a winning formula because Murdock is all about making money and Bill O’Reilly brings in more advertising dollars than Wolf Blitzer.

 

Would those advertising dollars shrink if Hertzberg made O’Reilly modify his message? Yes, probably. How do I know? Look how high in the ratings Neil Cavuto is. Neil is not the most entertaining person to watch, but people are tuning in, so it has to be something other than his scintillating personality. His message is compelling and viewers are tuning in for that.

I’m not making a judgment about which message is better or whether you can trust Fox News to give you better information. I am saying the viewers seem to prefer FOX’s message over what is offered at MSNBC and CNN.

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