Clinton Crisis Draws Viewers to News Channels


It definitely wasn't a dog-bites-man week on
cable's all-news channels.

Not surprisingly, the White House sex scandal sharply
boosted ratings for cable television's news networks for the week ending Jan. 25.

Cable News Network scored the highest ratings for the week,
averaging a 0.8 24-hour rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. The ratings were 60
percent higher than the network's 1997 average total-day ratings, and it was
CNN's highest-rated week since the death of Princess Diana last summer.

Fox News Channel scored its highest weekly ratings since
the network was launched a year-and-a-half ago, averaging a 0.2 total-day rating,
approximately double its normal average.

MSNBC also doubled its weekly rating, averaging a 0.4
across 24 hours, and CNBC averaged a 0.4 rating, as well.

An MSNBC spokeswomansaid the network's
coverage of Princess Diana's death remained the channel's highest-rated

CNN spokesman Howard Polskin said the numbers for the White
House crisis did not top the two most-watched events in the network's history: the
1991 Gulf War and the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson coverage -- in particular, the famous live
Bronco car chase.

The current White House scandal 'is not an intensely
visual story at this point,' Polskin noted.

Fox's historically high ratings for the week were
attributable to an 'unmatched confluence of sex, high office, power and
secrets,' said John Moody, vice president of news editorial for Fox News.

Moody said he didn't think that there would be a
backlash by the public at a perceived media 'feeding frenzy' that would affect
television ratings. 'There is some disgust among the viewing public with what
they're watching,' he said, 'but it does not stop them from watching.'

The White House scandal also helped specific shows on the
news channels. The Jan. 23 Friday-night edition of Larry King Live on CNN averaged
a 3.6 rating thanks to guest Gennifer Flowers, who claims to have been a former lover of
President Clinton.

On MSNBC, Brian Williams' one-hour special,
'Investigating the President,' on Wednesday, Jan. 21. at 10 p.m., drew a 1.0
rating -- an exceptional audience for that network.