Ed Driscoll

The Network That Dare Not Speak Its Name

“CNN Falls Behind MSNBC in Annual Prime-Time Ratings”, plus another news network that beat both franchises that the New York Times mentions in the body copy, but not the headline:

CNN will finish 2009 behind MSNBC in prime-time ratings, the first time CNN has ever trailed a competitor other than the Fox News Channel over a full calendar year.

That finish had been expected. In recent months, CNN, which continues to stand behind its policy of steering clear of the opinion-based shows that draw large prime-time audiences for its competitors, has also trailed its own sister network, HLN (formerly Headline News). CNN has frequently finished fourth in the news channel category.

CNN will finish the fourth quarter of 2009 in fourth place — another first — and with two weeks left has been fourth on more than 100 nights this year.

But the end-of-the-year ratings for the news networks — which were being presented this week because nothing is likely to change by Jan. 1 — are bringing some other, less expected, results. One is the ability of Fox News, which had the biggest ratings year in its history, to grow even against the heavily viewed election year of 2008. (Both CNN and MSNBC were down sharply from last year.)

Another surprise has been the steady growth, up 9 percent in prime time, of HLN, where hosts do offer opinions.

Perhaps most surprising is the overall growth in viewing for all the news networks over the last several years. For example, even with its competitive problems in prime time, CNN has had more viewers on average this year than it did in 2006 or 2007. So has MSNBC. But they both have been left in the dust by Fox News.

Found via  Mickey Kaus on Twitter, who adds, “CNN’s Jon Klein can’t get himself fired no matter how hard he tries.”

If only CNN had a show that could compete in the increasingly partisan world of network news, or sister network Headline News had an anchor with the populist appeal (and accompanying) ratings of Glenn Beck

Incidentally, Stephen Colbert stunt-edited an issue of Newsweek this year; is Olbermann now guest-writing headlines for Times? He’d certainly approve of the Gray Lady’s head.