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Cable News Networks Draw Big Friday Audience Following Terrorist Attacks

Viewership of the cable news network soared Friday night following the terrorist attacks in Paris, and ratings remained above average on Saturday as well. CNN was the demo leader, carrying just about every hour from Friday night to Saturday night and seeing the biggest gains among the networks, while Fox News led in total viewers.

According to preliminary Nielsen estimates, roughly 9.1 million viewers were watching Fox News Channel (4.4 million), CNN (3.2 million), MSNBC (1.2 million) and HLN (308,000) from 8 to 11 p.m. on Friday — a 153% surge over the average for the prior four weeks (3.6 million). By comparison, roughly 20.3 million viewers were watching the Big Four broadcasters on the night, with ABC’s “20/20” (5.1 million) and NBC’s “Dateline” (3.6 million) devoting their hours to Paris coverage.

Shepard Smith, who was on the air for seven hours, helped Fox News rank No. 1 in total viewers among the cable networks Friday night. 
Courtesy of Fox News

CNN averaged 1.3 million adults 25-54 during primetime on Friday to edge out Fox News (1.2 million), with both nets miles ahead of MSNBC (353,000) and HLN (120,000). CNN drew more than eight times the demo audience it did over the previous four Fridays (153,000), and FNC drew more than four times its recent Friday average (267,000). CNN was the demo leader in all but one hour from 8 p.m. Friday to 9 p.m. Saturday, with FNC edging ahead at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Excluding debate nights, both CNN and FNC delivered their highest-rated night of 2015 on Friday.

On Saturday night, the four cable news networks drew about 3 million viewers during primetime, with Fox News (1.48 million) drawing about as many as the other three combined. CNN held the demo advantage over Fox News (314,000 vs. 289,000), according to these preliminary results.

On a total-day basis Saturday, CNN led in the 25-54 demo with 426,000, followed by FNC (342,000, HLN (153,000) and MSNBC (108,000). It was especially dominant in the 3-6 a.m. window, nearly doubling Fox (370,000 vs. 190,000).

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