MSNBC talker tops CNN

Matthews scores ratings milestone

NEW YORK — For the first time in its history, MSNBC outdrew CNN in a key evening slot, with political talk host Chris Matthews commanding more viewers than the general-minded Anderson Cooper during the 7 p.m. hour last month.

According to Nielsen Media Research, “Hardball With Chris Matthews” averaged 480,000 viewers in April, while “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” averaged 461,000. Cooper narrowly beat Matthews in the key news demo, averaging 153,000 adults 25-54, while Matthews averaged 142,000.

Roundly trouncing both shows was Fox News Channel’s “The Fox Report With Shepard Smith.”

Smith, who has been on a ratings climb in recent months, drew more viewers than Matthews and Cooper combined in April, averaging 1.46 million total viewers and 530,000 adults 25-54, according to Nielsen. Smith’s program was the No. 3 cable news show for the month, behind two other FNC shows, “Hannity & Colmes” and the “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Matthews’ victory over Cooper — whose youngish-styled news show went on the air in the fall — marked a milestone for MSNBC, which has long lagged CNN and Fox News Channel.

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It also marked more bad news for CNN, which tried to soften the unprecedented loss by pointing out that a political show such as Matthew’s will always do better during a presidential campaign season. A CNN spokeswoman also said Cooper has grown his aud since going on the air.

But cable news execs elsewhere pointed out that the prez race died down in early March, with the close of a busy Democratic primary season.

The competish refutes that Cooper’s program has been any great success, evidenced by the fact that Matthews and he are now in a virtual dead heat.

Overall, viewership continued to be down at all the cable news nets in April compared with the same frame last year, when war coverage saw ratings soar.

Leader FNC averaged 1.5 million viewers last month, down 58% from April 2003, according to Nielsen. CNN averaged 839,000 viewers, down 63%, while MSNBC averaged 317,000 viewers, down 72%.

The story was largely the same when it came to 25-54, with Fox averaging 392,000 viewers, down 66%. CNN averaged 178,000 in the demo, down 77%, and MSNBC, 102,000, down 79%.

Fox News continued to deliver nine of the top 10 cable news shows, with CNN’s “Larry King Live” the one exception.

CNN noted that “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” at 10 posted its highest monthly aud since the war, averaging 821,000 viewers. But during that same hour, FNC’s “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren” averaged 1.2 million viewers.

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