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Cable Beats Broadcast = Man Bites Dog?

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September 1st, 2008

TV Newser's Steve Krakauer wrote an excellent post about CNN's head to head ratings win over the broadcast networks for the 10-11pm hour of last Thursday's Democratic National Convention.

CNN accomplished something on Thursday that had never happened in its more than 28 year history. The 10pmET broadcast of Sen.Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC was the top rated program on all of television, beating all broadcast networks as well as cable channels.

That was clearly a milestone for CNN, and quite unique for cable, beating the broadcast networks head to head covering the same event.

However, I talked to Steve while he was writing the article and said I was pretty sure that ESPN's Monday Night Football was the top rated prime-time show occasionally last season (2007-8) for both broadcast and cable television.

It was on 3 nights (all numbers Live+SD):

  • Sept 10: ESPN MNF Bengals/Ravens 11.1 million. Top broadcast show: Two and a Half Men 9.95 million.
  • Dec 3: ESPN MNF Pats/Ravens 17.5 million. Top broadcast show: Two and a Half Men 11.88 million
  • Dec 24: ESPN MNF Broncos/Chargers 8.77 million. Top broadcast show: CSI:Miami 6.06 million
So while the CNN convention coverage win was unique in that they beat the broadcast nets while showing the same event, it's not exactly man bites dog that a cable network had the most viewed show of all on a particular night.
Edit: Now that I think about it, I bet there are plenty of other examples as well, particularly in the summer.
 
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