The political wrangling over the health care reform bill was nothing compared to the spinning among the all-news cablers about the ratings for coverage of Sunday’s big vote.
Fox News Channel had the edge by a wide margin over CNN and MSNBC for most of the night, but CNN spiked into the lead the key 11 p.m.-midnight EST hour when the vote was taken.
The debate and vote played out like a political thriller on the three all-news cablers — and by sharp contrast was mostly ignored by the Big Four nets, which stuck with regular Sunday programming. The news cablers went wall-to-wall throughout the day with coverage of the strenuous speechifying from House members leading in to the vote-taking, The nets build the tension with graphics and counters that tracked every yea and nay until the final 219-212 partisan tally was in the history books.
Fox News Channel averaged 2.7 million viewers from 6 p.m.-midnight EST, compared to 2.1 million for CNN and 887,000 for MSNBC. Fox News had a sizable advantage over CNN in nearly every hour of the day starting at 6 a.m. But at 10 p.m., CNN swelled to 3.1 million (from 2 million at 9 p.m.), compared to Fox’s 3.3 million. At 11 p.m., CNN climbed to 3.3 million while Fox News eased to 2.4 million. MSNBC climbed from 752,000 at 9 p.m. to 1.5 million at 11 p.m.
The story was the same in the key adults 25-54 demographic. Fox News dominated the day by a mile for all but the 11 p.m. hour, when CNN averaged 1.2 million viewers in the key news demo to Fox News’ 906,000 and MSNBC’s 563,000.
Compared to its year-to-date average in the Sunday 6 p.m.-midnight frame, Fox News and CNN were up by triple digits. MSNBC saw a more modest bounce of about 26%.