Photo finish for cable news nets

Margin comes down to DVR viewing

Fox News took the cable news ratings crown in August, but the battle for second-place is getting interesting.

CNN’s Paula Zahn left the stage during the first week in August, but CNN still managed to challenge MSNBC’s much-promoted Keith Olbermann for the No. 2 spot at 8 p.m. behind Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

The margin came down to DVR viewing: In live Nielsen ratings, CNN topped Olbermann; when DVR viewing is counted, Olbermann is the narrow winner.

The close margin sets the stage for a tough battle this fall. While, Olbermann will have added network exposure as co-host of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” CNN is launching former NBC News anchor Campbell Brown in the 8 p.m. timeslot this fall and is planning a huge promo campaign to get her show off the ground.

Meanwhile, in the mornings, MSNBC is feeling the pain of the departed Don Imus. Last year, “Imus in the Morning” was running ahead of “American Morning,” which triggered an anchor shakeup at CNN. Now MSNBC is fourth, behind CNN Headline News’ “Robin & Co.” That’s a problem for MSNBC, which moved former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough to the morning and plans to re-launch the show as “Morning Joe” in the fall.

Also in the fall, both CNN and MSNBC are looking to overwhelm Fox with new docs. CNN had some success with its three-night “God’s Warriors” series, which gave it rare wins in primetime, and the net is ratcheting up its doc production in the fall. MSNBC is loading its primetime “doc block” with 25 preems this fall.

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