Cable News Network's efforts to turbo-charge its evening ratings with rising stars Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper were off to a less-than stellar start last week.
During the first three days of its premiere week, Zahn's new primetime show, Paula Zahn Now, was flat for its 8 p.m. time period compared with the prior month, and down in the double-digits compared with Connie Chung's show a year ago.
Nighttime newcomer Cooper, in the 7 p.m. time slot with Anderson Cooper 360, didn't fare much better than Zahn in the ratings. His show's comparisons to the previous four weeks and year-ago period were about the same: flat compared to the prior month, dramatically down from a year ago.
In addition to failing to improve CNN's numbers, Zahn and Anderson fell well short of rival Fox News Channel's ratings.
"The numbers speak for themselves, but we wish her [Zahn] well," a Fox News spokeswoman said.
For last Monday through Wednesday, Paula Zahn Now
averaged a 0.5 household rating, the same as the time slot was doing in the previous four weeks, according to Nielsen Media Research.
By contrast, Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor
averaged a 1.6 for those three days, which represented an odd week for the show. John Kasich substituted for O'Reilly Monday, and Tuesday the service ran a debate of Democratic presidential candidates in that 8 p.m. time slot.
Fox News alum Zahn's numbers last week represented a 50% drop from the 1.0 Connie Chung Tonight
averaged a year ago.
Anderson's show averaged a 0.4 rating it first three days, the same as its 7 p.m. time slot was tracking the prior four weeks. Cooper was down 43% from Crossfire's number from last year, a 0.7.
CNN tried to put the best face on the performance of the two shows, with a network spokeswoman saying it was "ridiculous to judge a show on the first three days." She added that CNN had done very little promotion for the two shows.
The new programs have improved the demographics for their time periods, with Zahn ahead 12% among viewers 25 to 54 and Cooper up 17% versus the prior four weeks, according to the spokeswoman.
"We are extremely excited about where these shows are now and where they are going," the CNN spokeswoman said, noting that Zahn had landed exclusive interviews with former President George H. Bush, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
She pointed out that Zahn's show shouldn't be judged in a vacuum since most TV news outlets, with the exception of Fox News are down this year versus last.
This summer, Fox News was up 18%, to a 1.3 versus a 1.1, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. CNN was down 13%, to a 0.7 from a 0.8 a year ago.