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2013 Ratings: CNN Tops MSNBC in Total Day, But Hits 20-Year Low in Primetime

Jeff Zucker’s first year at the helm of CNN produced mixed results for the channel. The good news for CNN comes in total day, where the network edged out MSNBC to come in second for the first time in two years. The bad news: CNN was third in primetime, posting its lowest 8-11pmET ratings in 20 years.

The ratings for 2013 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 568,000 Total Viewers / 183,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 413,000 Total Viewers / 131,000 A25-54

Compared to 2012, CNN was flat in total viewers and down -2% in the A25-54 demographic in total day, down the least compared to Fox News and MSNBC. In primetime, the channel was down -16% in total viewers and -18% in the A25-54 demographic. With the exception of HLN, all the cable news networks are down compared to 2012, which was a Presidential election year.

Despite the network’s 20-year low in Monday to Sunday primetime, the weekday prime shows were up compared to 2012.  “Anderson Cooper 360″ is up for the year, +18% in total viewers and +19% in the A25-54 demographic. Ditto “Piers Morgan Tonight,” which was up +1% in total viewers and +2% in the demo year-over-year. The 10pmET timeslot — which may be prime territory for further experimentation in 2014 — was up +2% and down -1%, respectively.

The major new shows launched on CNN this year were “New Day” and “Crossfire.” “New Day,” which debuted in June, has closed the gap with “Morning Joe” by more than half (from 80,000 viewers to 33,000 viewers) among the A25-54 demographic since its launch in June. As for “Crossfire,” which debuted in September, the 6:30pmET half-hour is up +3% in total viewers and +15% in the demo compared to the same time period last year. However, both shows are down compared to the pre-launch 2013 averages: “New Day” is down -7% in total viewers and -20% in the demo, and “Crossfire” is down -23% and -20%, respectively.

As we noted in December, CNN had some of its best ratings this year in its films and original series, like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which was the top regularly-scheduled weekend program on cable news in the A25-54 demographic in 2013.

CNN’s release is below.

CNN Moves Past MSNBC to Finish 2013 as #2 Rated Cable News Network

All CNN Primetime Programs are Up While FOX and MSNBC Programs are Down

2013 Marks Best Year in History for CNN Digital

For the first time in two years, CNN ended the year as the #2 rated cable news network, topping MSNBC in total day in total viewers (414k vs. 397k). Also this year, CNN’s audience levels remained steady compared to 2012, while both FOX and MSNBC were down double-digits this year. Among all of CNN’s properties, HLN’s rating grew strongly this year vs. a year ago and CNN Digital had its best year in history.

In total day (6am-6am) CNN ratings remained even this year vs. a year ago in total viewers (414k vs. 416k) and in the demo 25-54 (132k vs.134k). MSNBC lost close to a quarter of its audience in 2013 vs. last year, down -21% in total viewers (397k vs. 500k) and -20% in the demo rating (133k vs. 167k). Without the series “Lock Up” and “Caught on Camera,” etc. MSNBC ratings fall even more dramatically, from 133k to 117k. FOX was off -5% in total viewers and down -18% in the demo 25-54 in 2013. Also, CNN narrowed the gap with FOX by a third from 140k (134k vs. 274k) to 93k (132k vs. 225k) among adults 25-54 vs. the same period a year ago.

While all of CNN’s individual primetime programs showed ratings increases in 2013, all cable news network’s 8-11pm time period ratings are down compared to 2012 — largely due to each network’s presidential election programming, which had high viewership from debates and election night. As a result, all the networks are posting primetime time period lows vs. a year ago, with Fox posting its lowest prime time total viewer delivery since 2007 and lowest prime demo 25-54 performance in 12 years (since 2001). MSNBC registered its lowest prime time total viewer delivery since 2007 and lowest 25-54 delivery since 2007 in M-Su Prime and since 2006 in M-F Prime. Though CNN finished third in prime, it ended 2013 closer to MSNBC than it has in years. CNN’s key programs grew their audiences this year, while the FOX and MSNBC marquee programs are all down:

–”Erin Burnett Outfront” at 7pm grew double-digits this year, increasing +10% in total viewers (498k vs. 453k) and +15% in the demo 25-54 rating (159k vs.138k). MSNBC’s “Hardball” was down -16% in total viewers and -18% in the demo and FOX’s 7pm programming was down -4%/-24% respectively.

–”AC 360″ at 8pm ended the year in second place in the demo 25-54 and is the highest rated weekday show on CNN. The program is up +18% in total viewers (648k vs. 549k) and +19% in the demo rating (201k vs. 169k). MSNBC at 8pm declined -31% in total viewers this year and is down -27% in the key demo; while FOX is down -5% in total viewers and -22% in the demo at 8pm.

–”Piers Morgan Live” at 9pm is up +1% in total viewers (597k vs. 590k) and grew +2% in the demo this year (173k vs. 170k). MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” had sharp declines in 2013, decreasing -24% in total viewers and -27% in the demo. FOX’s 9pm programming is down -10%/-24%.

–CNN’s 10pm programming (various shows) ranks #2 in the key 25-54 demo this year, while all the cable news networks (except HLN) are down during this time period vs. a year ago.

CNN’s morning show “New Day” narrowed the gap with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” by more than half from 80k (105k vs. 185k) to just 33k (99k vs. 132k) among adults 25-54 vs. the same period a year ago. “New Day” is also the only weekday morning show across the cable news landscape to post year-over-year growth in total viewers (+11%) since the program’s launch in June.

CNN’s weekday Washington-based programming saw rating highlights this year — with “The Lead with Jake Tapper” placing second during the 4pm time period in both total viewers and in the key demo 25-54. “The Situation Room” at 5pm also ranked #2 in cable news in the demo rating and the show grew +4% in total viewers and +9% in the demo vs. a year ago. CNN programming from 6:30-7:00pm (which includes “Crossfire” since Sept. 9) is up +3% in total viewers and +15% in the demo; while MSNBC was down -19%/-20% and FOX is flat/ down -21% respectively during that half-hour time period.

“CNN Newsroom” (9am-4pm) easily topped MSNBC this year, placing second in cable news among total viewers (493k vs. 351k) and in the demo rating (139k vs. 97k). “Newsroom” also grew +11% in total viewers and +10% in the demo this year; while MSNBC was down -19% in total viewers and is off -18% in the demo 25-54. FOX is down -2% and -14% respectively during the day.

In addition, CNN successfully embarked on a new strategy of taped programming, to strong results. Two seasons of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” aired on CNN this year. During season one (April-June) and season two (September-November) the program’s Sunday 9pm premiere episode ranked as the #1 regularly scheduled weekend program across all cable news networks among adults 25-54.

Also, the new CNN Films banner increased the network’s audience levels this year during their collective time-period, led by the highly-acclaimed “Blackfish”. The six CNN Films premieres of 2013, which included “Blackfish”, “Escape Fire”, and “Our Nixon”, all grew from their time-period’s prior 4 week average among adults 25-54. “CNN Films: Blackfish” was the #1 cable news program on the day it premiered (10/24) among the key demo 25-54, with younger viewers 18-49 tuning in in large numbers (688k). The premiere posted CNN’s youngest median age for a prime program in over a decade (40 years old). Across all airings, “Blackfish” reached 21 million total viewers and 7.8 million adults 25-54.

The premiere of “The Assassination of President Kennedy” ranked as the top cable news program in its time-period and the most-watched non-fiction cable program commemorating the event. The premiere ranked #1 on cable news from 9-11p on November 14th among P25-54. Across all airings, the “Assassination of President Kennedy” reached 21 million total viewers and 8.2 mm adults 25-54.

CNN Original Series such as “Parts Unknown”, “Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man”, and “The Assassination of President Kennedy” and CNN Films like “Blackfish” all saw impressive levels of time-shifted viewing in their 2013 premieres.

• “Parts Unknown” Seasons 1 & 2: +62% Live to Live + 7 Increase

• “Inside Man” Season 1: +50%

• “JFK Assassination” 11/14: +23%

• “Blackfish” 10/24: +40%

Full Year Nielsen media research data is from 12/31/12-12/29/13

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