Cable news auds cool off

Nets sees viewers decline; Fox saw growth in Sept.

Not even CNN’s ratings-reliable Larry King could keep viewers tuned in during the summer and into September, part of a sharp drop in cable news auds.

Fox News Channel was the only net able to post total viewer growth in the third quarter of 2003 and in September, according to Nielsen Media Research.

All the other nets — CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC and CNBC — showed percentage declines in total viewers compared with the same period last year.

But even Fox News joined the competish in witnessing a drop-off in key demos during the third quarter and last month. It had a particularly sharp decline in viewers 18-34.

CNN posted declines across its revamped evening lineup during the third quarter and in September, despite last month’s official debut of “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” at 7 p.m. ET and “Paula Zahn Now” at 8 p.m. ET.

Cooper’s show showed a 31% decline in total viewers last month compared to the same timeslot in September 2002, and Zahn’s show saw a 19% drop-off in the timeslot.

CNN execs countered by saying that both shows improved their numbers compared with August.

The newsie, which is on an aggressive campaign to reinvigorate aud interest, also said that viewership is up so far this year, compared with the first nine months of 2002.

At 9 p.m. ET, “Larry King Live” saw a 13% decline in total viewers in September and a 17% decline during the third quarter. “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” at 10 p.m. ET posted the lowest losses, with an 11% decline in total viewers last month and a 10% decline over the third quarter.

Audience declines were felt across the board at Headline News, MSNBC and CNBC.

One notable exception was MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” which airs weekdays at 7 p.m. ET. Show saw a 35% jump in total viewers last month compared with the same time last year; it managed an 11% jump during the third quarter.

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