Viewers Flock to Cable News Coverage of Boston Attacks

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Cable news networks early Friday morning devoted massive coverage both on-air and in the digital media space to the chase for the Boston marathon bombers.

At press time, April 18 and April 19 ratings from CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNBC were not available as a flurry of breaking news developed overnight last Thursday, beginning with a shootout that left suspected Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, dead, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, on the run.

During the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, CNN topped the target demographic of adults 25 to 54 in primetime, averaging 1.32 million viewers to Fox News’ 1.19 million and MSNBC’s 461,000 viewers from 8 to 11 p.m. In total viewers, Fox News was first with an audience of 3.9 million, CNN was second with 2.75 million viewers and MSNBC drew 1.244 million.

In the 3 p.m. hour — the news of the explosions broke at 3:07 p.m. (ET) — Fox News averaged 1.96 million total viewers and 542,000 adults 25-54, CNN drew 970,000 viewers and 349,000 in the key demo and MSNBC had 435,000 total viewers and 129,000 adults 25-54.

While the cable news networks’ performance was nearly double the primetime average for each network for the prior week (April 8-14), the ratings paled in comparison to the cable networks’ election-night coverage last November. Fox averaged 11.4 million viewers in primetime on Nov. 6, compared to CNN’s 9.2 million viewers and MSNBC’s 4.6 million watchers.

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