BOSTON — Not even Bill Clinton aroused much interest among broadcast TV viewers as the Dem confab opened in Boston on Monday, though cable newsies CNN and MSNBC saw impressive votes of confidence.
CNN regained some of its stardust and soundly beat leader Fox News in primetime, grabbing at least a million more viewers (2.5 million vs. 1.4 million), according to Nielsen Media Research.
MSNBC, which usually trails a distant third, commanded a whopping 1 million viewers, making NBC News’ empire the most watched operation of the night.
On the broadcast side, the so-so showing probably didn’t thrill network news execs, but the ratings proved they may be right in concluding that Americans don’t expect or want gavel-to-gavel convention coverage on the broadcast nets anymore.
ABC News, CBS News and NBC News all provided one hour of primetime coverage Monday, commencing at 10 p.m. ET.
Viewership was down compared to the first night of the 2000 Dem confab for both ABC News and NBC News. (CBS News didn’t provide “official” convention coverage on that night in 2000 and wasn’t counted by Nielsen).
On Monday, thanks to an unbeatable lead-in provided by “CSI: Miami,” CBS News pulled a rare victory and narrowly beat NBC News (4.552 million vs. 4.532 million). ABC averaged 4.4 million viewers for the hour.
In 2000, ABC News averaged 6 million viewers and NBC News 5.9 million as the Democrats opened their convention at the Staples Center in L.A.
Roughly speaking, 13.5 million viewers tuned into the three broadcast nets Monday night to watch the Clintons speak; that compares to the 25 million who watched broadcast TV during the same frame a week ago Monday.
Execs with ABC News, CBS News and NBC News have taken plenty of heat in recent weeks for airing only six hours of primetime coverage during the Dem and upcoming Republican conventions.
They respond that viewers know to turn to cable news nets and other media outlets for more extensive coverage.
Indeed, all the cable news nets enjoyed healthy gains Monday over the last Dem confab. During the first night of the 2000 event, CNN averaged 1.8 million viewers; MSNBC, 632,000; and Fox News, 420,000.
Fox avoids Dem speeches
Monday night, Fox News took the unusual step of not carrying primetime speeches earlier in the evening by former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore but rather stuck to political commentary by its regular lineup of show hosts, all broadcasting live from the Fleet Center. Net did carry Bill and Hillary Clinton’s separate speeches in the 10 p.m. ET hour.
Fox News’ audience numbers stayed on par throughout the night, meaning it neither lost nor gained viewers. Liberal pundits said Fox’s decision to run its regularly scheduled programs, such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity & Colmes,” instead of the Gore and Carter speeches further supports the liberals’ claim that the news org is biased and slants the news in a distinctly conservative direction.
It’s likely that Fox News will see a spike in numbers during the GOP confab in Gotham the week of Aug. 30.