Bringing It to the Cable

Call it hybrid vigor. While their cousins in print suffer the pains of their congenital defects, cable networks—relatively young, and served, perhaps, by their mingled print and broadcast parentage—had fantastic years, ratings-wise. Here’s Broadcasting & Cable’s run-down:

Network ratings releases were filled with words like “transformational,” “record-breaking,” “dominant” and the ubiquitous “best year ever.” And in truth, all three networks can boast impressive gains in 2008.

In primetime, Fox News was up 41% in total viewers, averaging just over 2 million viewers. In news’ target demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds, the network averaged 502,000 viewers, a gain of 43%.

Fox News will finish the year as the most-watched cable news network—for the seventh consecutive year. The network is the No. 3 ranked basic-cable network in primetime, behind USA and ESPN. CNN is ranked 10th and MSNBC is ranked 22nd.

CNN posted gains of 72% in primetime for an average of 1.31 million viewers. For the demo, CNN averaged 463,000 viewers for a 91% increase.

MSNBC grew its primetime audience by 84% for an average of 926,000 viewers. In the demo, MSNBC averaged 368,000 viewers, a gain of 83%.

The broadcast networks, alas, had no such success: Save for ABC’s Nightline and NBC’s Nightly News, they saw little growth in 2008.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.