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State of the Screens

Who’s Winning the Cable News Battle?

By January 19, 2023No Comments

Five big questions re: cable news in 2022:
1) Which networks had the largest primetime audience?
2) How did the audience compare to past election years?
3) How does Fox News consistently finish #1 with only Republicans watching?
4) What is next for TV news?
5) Does the public trust TV news?

Big question #1: Which networks had the largest primetime audience?Cable news networks by primetime audience (YoY growth) according to Nielsen:
1) Fox News – 2.3M (↑ 1%)
2) MSNBC – 1.2M (↑ 31%)
3) CNN – 700K (↓ 7%)

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Big question #2: How did the audience compare to past election years?

Cable news networks by primetime audience (2018 vs. 2022) according to Nielsen:
1) Fox News – ↓ 7%
2) CNN – ↓ 26%
3) MSNBC – ↓ 33%

Big question #3: How does Fox News consistently finish #1 with only Republicans watching?

Quick answer: Fox News (surprisingly) draws viewers from across the political spectrum.  More liberals watch Fox News than CNN.

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Big question #4: What is next for TV news?

Quick answer: News is shifting from linear to streaming.

Quote from Jack Shafer – Senior Media Writer @ Politico:

“Streaming news sets alight decades of kindling that has piled up around linear TV. Streaming news arrives on a viewer’s demand. It travels wherever the viewer goes — on a smartphone during a commute, at work on a laptop, or sitting in front of the big set at home. It allows the viewer to customize his experience the same way he can browse a newspaper or a website. Its greatest breakthrough, however, comes in the way it reduces scarcity in the media equation. Previously, government regulation and cable oligopolies limited the television medium to a relatively low number of players. Streaming makes possible a channel for every predilection, opening the way for new entrants and new approaches to coverage from the city council to Congress to the battlefield.”

Quote from Jack Shafer – Senior Media Writer @ Politico: “It was an easy call for CBS and ABC to enter the news streaming business. Neither owns a cable news network, so neither was about to cannibalize a cable audience. But Fox and CNN operate multiple cable news channels, so each avoided establishing a new free outlet, and instead entered TV news’ undiscovered country by charging monthly for CNN+ and Fox Nation. Watching CNN+ — when you still could — and Fox Nation reveals how irksome the four-and-a-half-minute ad blocks for Relief Factor, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Humira can be; they’re the sort of kindling that could someday turn frustrated viewers into cable contract arsonists. That day, however, has yet to come. Perhaps commercial-averse viewers are content for now to switch channels instead of paying directly for TV news.”

Big question #5: Does the public trust TV news?

Quick answer: No.

Americans who say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and TV, according to Gallup:
1) Newspapers – 16%
2) Television news – 11%

 

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.