CNN’s Q1 Ratings Fall Despite Intense Focus On Doomed Malaysia Plane

An aggressive focus on doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 boosted CNN’s performance in March, but was not enough to vanquish the Time Warner-owned cable-news network ongoing ratings issues in the first quarter.

CNN’s ratings in primetime for the first quarter were off 16% overall and down 3% in the viewer demographic coveted by advertisers, people between 25 and 54, according to data from Nielsen. MSNBC’s primetime ratings, meanwhile, were off 10% overall and down 4% in the 25-to-54 demo in the first quarter, Nielsen said.

Fox News Channel maintained its usual first-place stance during the period, and increased its overall primetime viewership by 4% and its 25-to-54 audience by 5% during the first quarter

The numbers come as MSNBC pushed hard during the period to cover the “Bridgegate” scandal surrounding New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and CNN made coverage of the Malaysia plane a top priority in nearly all of its programming. And they raise the question of whether CNN will be able to sustain its March momentum when and if the MH 370 story loses the interest of news audiences.

The first quarter primetime numbers, according to Nielsen:

Fox News Channel: An average of 1,804,000 total viewers. An average of 293,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

MSNBC: An average of 683,000 total viewers. An average of 217,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

CNN: An average of 498,000 total viewers. An average of 169,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

In total-day audiences, Fox’s total viewers increased 3%, while its audiences between 25 and 54 rose 5% CNN’s total day viewership fell 5%, and was flat in audiences between 25 and 54. MSNBC’s total day viewership fell 9%, and slipped 2% in viewers between 25 and 54.

The first quarter total day numbers, according to Nielsen:
Fox News Channel: An average of 1,099,000 total viewers. An average of 225,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

MSNBC: An average of 394,000 total viewers. An average of 138,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

CNN: An average of 383,000 total viewers. An average of 122,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

Meantime, CNN is touting its March performance, which has been chockablock with reporting on the downed plane, as well as experiments in primetime such as heightened exposure for anchors like Don Lemon and Richard Quest.

CNN said it ranked second in total-day viewership for March, and second among adults between 25 and 54 as well as total viewers, leading MSNBC by 29% in the 25-to-54 demo and by 31% among total viewers. CNN said March represented its best total-day ratings delivery since July of 2013.

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