‘O’Reilly’ throws punch at ‘Rivera’

Talker ranked no. 2 primetime cable news program

NEW YORK — Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” has become a significant factor indeed for CNBC’s “Rivera Live.”

For the month of December, “O’Reilly” surpassed “Rivera” in both primetime ratings and households, garnering a 0.8 (the equivalent of 359,000 cable homes) compared with “Rivera’s” 0.5 (the equivalent of 356,000 cable homes), according to Nielsen Media Research.

Even more impressively, the nightly talker finished December as the No. 2 primetime cable news program, following “Larry King Live” on CNN, which posted a 1 rating (the equivalent of 751,000 cable homes).

Comparing fourth-quarter figures vs. year-ago results, O’Reilly is up 55%, attracting an average of 314,000 cable households, from 203,000 in 1998. Rivera is down 46% from an average of 688,000 households to 373,000. “Larry King” is down 39% from 1,397,000 to 851,000 households, and CNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” is down 20% from 535,000 to 427,000 households.

Explaining the dramatic drop in ratings for talk kingpin “Larry King,” a CNN spokesman said the network suffered from a comparison with 1998, when two major news stories captivated viewers during the fourth quarter: the impeachment of President Clinton and the U.S. bombing of Iraq.

CNN also faced more competition in the cable news net arena in 1999, with both MSNBC and Fox News each gaining more than 7 million subscribers during the year.

CNBC was unavailable for comment.

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