Iraq war bumps up Fox News auds

Net finishes year with 45% ratings growth

NEW YORK — Coverage of the war in Iraq benefited several of the cable news nets, but none more than Fox News Channel.

With the final set of numbers now in for 2003 (spanning Dec. 30, 2002, to Dec. 28, 2003), Nielsen handed Fox News a belated holiday gift: a 45% increase in primetime delivery. For the year, Fox News remained the only all-news outlet to crack the basic-cable top 10, moving to eighth from ninth a year ago.

Net’s primetime delivery of total viewers topped 1.7 million. In the target 25-54 demo, delivery averaged 609,000 viewers, also up 45%. In this category, Fox News moved from 14th last year to a ninth-place finish in 2003.

(Only Hallmark Channel saw a similar bump in total viewership — in part thanks to a subscriber base increase of 6.3 million.)

Fox News was an even stronger fifth-place finisher in total-day viewing, with its average aud of 1.02 million viewers (up 53% year-to-year) lagging only Nickelodeon (1.73m), Cartoon Network (1.22m), TNT (1.22m) and Lifetime (1.15m).

Trailing behind Fox was CNN, with a more modest but not-too-shabby year-to-year increase of 22%. CNN finished the year with 1.1 million total viewers. In the adults 25-54 demo, CNN netted 373,000 viewers, a 43% jump from last year.

Total-day, CNN averaged a ninth-place 665,000 viewers (up 24%).

Further down the roster, MSNBC saw a 23% delivery increase to 443,000 total viewers and a 28% increase in adults 25-54 to 202,000.

CNN’s Headline News saw mixed results, with a 4% increase in total viewership (239,000) but a similar drop in the 25-54 demo to 104,000.

CNBC continued to struggle with a 27% dive (186,000) in delivery of total viewers and a 28% decrease in 25-54 demo (104,000).