CNN Can't Blame All Its Summer Declines on Michael Jackson

Categories: Cable News Ratings

Written By

August 16th, 2010

In an broad-reaching article about summer cable ratings by our friend Brian Stelter at the New York Times  that I wrote about yesterday, Jack Wakshlag the research chief for Turner Broadcasting told the New York Times that the death of Michael Jackson contributed to higher news ratings last summer.  The article mentioned the single digit percentage declines year over year at FOX, MSNBC, and HLN  while CNN was off 43%.

As usual, Mr. Wakshlag is correct.  There's no doubt the death of Michael Jackson contributed to higher news ratings last summer, particularly for CNN.  But the way the article is written, it makes it seem that all of CNN's summer declines can be attributed to coverage of Michael Jackson's death last summer.  That's definitely not the case.

What happens if you take the biggest period of Michael Jackson coverage from his death on June 25th through his funeral on July 7 out of the mix?  CNN is still down significantly more than the other networks and still down double digits if you exclude June 25, 2009 through July 7, 2009 (Jackson's death through Jackson's funeral).   CNN is just on the same continued course of ratings declines it has been on all year.

Here's the normal year over year comparisons for June and July primetime not excluding any data:






P 2+ P 25-54
Network Period Dates Time Days AA (000) AA (000)
FOXN Jun-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 2085 533
FOXN Jun-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 1922 469
% difference: -8% -12%
CNN Jun-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 1026 333
CNN Jun-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 574 176
% difference: -44% -47%
MSNB Jun-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 768 264
MSNB Jun-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 713 237
% difference: -7% -10%
CNBC Jun-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 197 86
CNBC Jun-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 206 90
% difference: 5% 5%
HLN Jun-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 540 209
HLN Jun-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 489 154
% difference: -9% -26%

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Here are the year over year comparisons if you factor out June 25, 2009-July 7, 2009 from the comparison.   Things are definitely not as bad for CNN as they are if you include those days in the comparison, but they are still pretty bad, and much worse than the other networks.  The Michael Jackson explanation is true, and valid, but when it comes to using it as a way to wave off the year over year declines for CNN this summer, it's a bit of a crutch.  It makes for a good sound bite, but it doesn't jibe with the actual results.

P 2+ P 25-54
Network Period Dates Time Days AA (000) AA (000)
FOXN Jun'09-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 2117 531
FOXN Jun'10-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 1922 469
% difference: -9% -12%
CNN Jun'09-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 843 243
CNN Jun'10-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 574 176
% difference: -32% -28%
MSNB Jun'09-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 778 258
MSNB Jun'10-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 713 237
% difference: -8% -8%
CNBC Jun'09-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 195 87
CNBC Jun'10-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 206 90
% difference: 6% 3%
HLN Jun'09-Jul'09 06/01/09-07/26/09 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 520 191
HLN Jun'10-Jul'10 05/31/10-07/25/10 08:00P -11:00P MTWTFSS 489 154
% difference: -6% -19%

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Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2010 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

 
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