Interest in the ongoing cleanup and recovery developments in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina continue to drive viewers to cable’s all-news networks, particularly Fox News Channel.
Beginning on Aug. 28 — the day before the devastating storm hit landfall — and continuing through Sept. 13, Fox News averaged a 2.9 household rating and 3.29 million viewers in primetime, according to Nielsen Media Research data. For its part, Cable News Network posted a 2.2 rating and averaged 2.37 million primetime viewers over that span.
MSNBC and CNN Headline News were well behind with a 0.9 (938,000) and a 0.6 (647,000), respectively.
The gap between Fox News and CNN was a little bit closer in total-programming day. The former averaged a 1.9 and 2.06 million viewers during that period, compared with a 1.4 and 1.48 million watchers for CNN. MSNBC (0.6, 566,000) and Headline (0.4, 360,000) followed.
Over the course of the Katrina coverage, Fox News has set the Nielsen pace. The week of Aug. 28 through Sept. 4, Fox News finished first in all of ad-supported cable with a 3.6 average in primetime and a. 2.5 in total-programming day, recording 34 of the top 40 shows for that week. CNN was second overall with both measures: 2.8 and a 1.9, respectively.
The next week (Sept. 5 to 11), Fox News claimed 17 of the week’s highest-rated shows, scoring a 2.4 to finish second behind Turner Network Television’s 2.6 in primetime, while CNN was fifth with a 1.8. Fox News placed second in total day with a 1.6; CNN had a slice of fourth with a 1.2.
Through the early part of last week, Fox continued out in front with an average of 2.43 million viewers in primetime and 1.26 million in total day on Sept. 12-13, versus 1.26 million and 734,500 for CNN.
The networks received a major spike last Thursday night with their coverage of President Bush’s speech from Jackson Square in New Orleans. Fox News averaged 3.92 million viewers from 9-9:30 p.m.; CNN had 2.27 million; and MSNBC 624,000.
Moreover, the extensive coverage doesn’t figure to end anytime soon: CNN Friday said it was opening a fully operational bureau in New Orleans.