Cable News Network was the ratings winner with its
"Super Tuesday" primary-night coverage, but Fox News Channel came in second in
the day's only upset.
From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., CNN posted a 1.8 rating in
primetime, or 1.4 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research data released
last week. That rating represented a 78 percent increase above what CNN has been averaging
in that time period year to date, a CNN spokesman said.
But in a surprise, FNC came in second among cable-news
networks with a strong performance, beating MSNBC in primetime in both ratings and
households for the March 7 presidential primaries.
FNC did a 1.0 rating, or 481,000 households. Those were
better numbers than MSNBC's 0.8 rating, or 426,000 homes, for its primetime primary
CNBC, which had Geraldo Rivera doing special reports on the
primaries from Los Angeles, did a 0.3 rating, or 222,000 homes. Rivera did live reports
from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and from midnight to 1 a.m.
FNC was celebrating its victory over its bigger rival,
MSNBC, last week. But MSNBC officials tried to play down FNC's win in households,
pointing out that its own primary coverage did well its key target demographic, 25 to 54.
An MSNBC spokesman also argued that since NBC offered
primary coverage on both of its cable outlets, MSNBC and CNBC, it divided viewership
between the two. "Some would say we dilute our ratings because we give viewers two
options," the spokesman said.
FNC, however, didn't buy into MSNBC's explanation
for its primary ratings. "Desperately spinning demos and adding one hour of low-rated
coverage on CNBC can't bail out [NBC News president] Andy Lack's sinking
ship," an FNC spokesman said.
With the broadcast networks essentially abdicating their
past commitment to comprehensive election coverage, the all-news cable networks had a full
roster of programming dedicated to the primaries and caucuses in 16 states last Tuesday
night. Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush secured their presidential
nominations by soundly beating former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Sen. John McCain
It was wall-to-wall primary coverage on cable. CNN had its Election
2000 anchors, Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, as well as lead analysts Jeff Greenfield
and Bill Schneider providing live primary coverage.
The coverage began at 5 p.m. with a special edition of Inside
Politics anchored by Wolf Blitzer. Woodruff and Shaw hosted Election 2000 from
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, with analysis and reporting from Greenfield,
Schneider, Blitzer, CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley and senior White House
correspondent John King.
CNN's primary-night edition of Larry King Live,
which aired from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., registered a 2.2 rating, or 1.7 million households,
according to the all-news network. "All of our political coverage has been performing
very strongly," the CNN spokesman said. "We're very pleased."
MSNBC also had comprehensive primary coverage Tuesday night
from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. And some of NBC News' top talent participated, such as Maria
Shriver and Anne Thompson, as well as MSNBC stars Brian Williams and Chris Matthews.
Shriver's work got noticed because of the brusque
brush-off she received from McCain at his Beverly Hills, Calif., headquarters. She
approached him as he was on his way to make his concession speech, and he told her,
"Please get out of here." McCain's camp claimed that the TV crew jostled
the senator's young daughter, which upset him.
FNC's "You Decide 2000" coverage kicked off
last Tuesday at 6 p.m. with a special hour-long report by Brit Hume, and it continued
until 1 a.m. It included special editions of both The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity
FNC's coverage also included commentary from its
contributors such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), ex-Clinton advisor
Dick Morris and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.).