A busy news month, including the Boston Marathon bombings and the Texas fertilizer warehouse explosion, sent more viewers to the cable news networks during primetime in April, with CNN surging and surpassing MSNBC but unable to top longtime leader Fox News.
Nielsen estimates that Fox News averaged 1.97 million viewers in primetime for the period of April 1-28, placing it third among all cable networks, behind only USA (2.51 million) and Disney Channel (2.37 million). The net was up 9% from April 2012, when it had placed seventh among cablers.
Rising considerably more (from its smaller base) was CNN, which grew 79% to 900,000; it ranked 20th among all cablers, up from 39th in April 2012. But MSNBC dropped 9% to 666,000 and ranked 29th.
CNN made it a competitive month in the key news demo of adults 25-54, placing 25th among all cable networks in April (330,000) — a spike of 128% from last year when it ranked 39th. FNC, with 380,000 viewers in the age group to lead all newsies, was off 2% from last year and ranked 20th among all cable nets. MSNBC (231,000) ranked 35th and was virtually flat year to year, while Headline News (173,000) placed 39th and grew by 36% vs. last year.
Peak viewing time for the month came in the 8 p.m. ET hour on Friday, April 19, when the hunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was apprehended following a shootout. Fox News (7.63 million) and CNN (6.78 million) alone counted for a combined 14.4 million viewers.
Fox News ranked first among all cable networks for the week of April 15-21 — the first time any news channel finished on top (outside of election periods) since Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005. It also retained more of its viewers in the subsequent week (April 22-28) than any of its rivals.