Fox dominates cable for 2nd month

MSNBC only other news net to up primetime delivery

War, what is it good for? Fox News.

Cabler surpassed its own record and dominated cable in both primetime and total-day for the second month in a row. With a 1.1 rating, Fox News brought in 2.3 million viewers in April for total-day. Numbers are up more than 200% from April ’02 and delivery is up 18% from March.

In primetime, channel took in a 1.7 rating and delivered 3.5 million viewers, also triple-digit percentage increases from last year. Numbers are up 9% from March.

MSNBC was the only other news net to increase its delivery in primetime (up 6% from March). Rest of competish saw slides — hardest hit was Headline News, falling 39% from last month.

“One of the few things that’s truly predictable is the performance of news networks during a war,” said Tim Brooks, senior VP of research for Lifetime. “The only real surprise was which.”

Brooks attributes Fox News’ success to its combination of straight news and opinion shows, unlike CNN, “which tends to be facts all the time,” he said.

Nine of the top 10 shows on basic cable were on Fox. Segments of “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren,” “The Fox Report” and “The O’Reilly Factor” led the list. All aired in early April as the war still waged. The only non-news show to break onto the list was Lifetime telepic “Homeless to Harvard.”

CNBC was the lone news net not to share in the bounty. In primetime, channel was down 6% from last year and down 23% from last month.

In other demos, entertainment trumped news. A Hollywood segment of “Trading Spaces” with cast members from “7th Heaven” was top-ranked in the 18-49 demo, delivering 3.5 million viewers. Skewing younger, none of the top 50 shows among the 18-34 demo were news programs.

Forecasting into May, chances are good that entertainment networks will float back to the top.

“Increases are not what they have been in late March/early April,” said Betsy Frank, MTV Networks’ exec VP of research. “There will still be interest — but you are seeing a return to more typical patterns of viewing.” War news is slowing, although the coverage of murder suspect Scott Peterson and the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has “created a new urgency to watch,” Frank said.

The usual suspects — TNT in primetime, Nick in total-day — controlled week 4. Fox hovers in second place in both.

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