Not unexpectedly, the cable news networks emerged as the undisputed winners at the Democratic National Convention this past week in Boston, with Cable News Network besting Fox News Channel in terms of viewership.
For the four days of the convention in primetime, Monday-Thursday, CNN averaged 2.3 million viewers, compared with 2.1 million for Fox News and 1.3 million for MSNBC, according to Nielsen Media Research.
It was a good week for CNN, which was able to boast that it was the “most-watched” news network during the convention. When Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) accepted his party’s nomination Thursday, the network racked up 2.7 million total viewers in primetime, not that much ahead of Fox News’ 2.5 million. MSNBC averaged 1.6 million viewers Thursday, the closing night of the convention.
Segment leader Fox News maintained that it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that CNN tracked No. 1 in viewership for the confab, since nearly one-half of its audience is made up of Democrats, according to a recent Pew Research Center for the People and the Press study.
With the major broadcasters offering only pared-down convention coverage, the 24-hour news channels saw huge viewership gains compared with their performance at the convention four years ago.
For the four days, Fox News’ viewership was up 348% compared with the Democratic convention in 2000. CNN’s was up 42%, while MSNBC’s was up 98%.
Tuesday night, Fox News hit a Nielsen homer when controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on The O’Reilly Factor at the convention. The show had the most viewership of any telecast on cable news that night, averaging 3.5 million viewers from 8:30 p.m.-9 p.m. and 3 million for the full hour.
Viewership at the “Big Three” was way down from four years ago. Wednesday from 10 p.m.-11 p.m., 12.1 million viewers were watching convention coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC, versus 15 million at the same point of the 2000 Democratic convention, according to Nielsen.
In contrast, viewership at the all-news networks during that hour was nearly three times greater. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC had 5.9 million viewers from 10 p.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday, versus 2.3 million four years ago.
Regional networks, CN8, The Comcast Network and New England Cable News also had some bragging points.
Boosted by a 2.0 mark at 9:30 p.m. on the DNC’s concluding night, CN8 averaged a 1.0 household rating within the Boston DMA from July 26-29 between 9 p.m.-11 p.m., according to Nielsen data, while averaging a 0.93 mark in primetime overall during that span.
NECN, meanwhile, led all cable competition July 26 with a 2.4 DMA mark between 9 p.m.-10 p.m. It pulled a 2.0 July 28 from 10 p.m.-11 p.m. -- a performance network officials said would have topped ABC (2.4) and CBS (2.6) in the market when adjusting for broadcast’s 25% reach advantage.