Fox News triumphs in the ratings during summit week

The Fox News Channel, which had been celebrating strong ratings performances in recent weeks, has another reason to crow after resoundingly beating the competition so far during Summit Week.  On Monday, with coverage of the Singapore Summit airing right in the middle of U.S. prime time, Fox News bested not only the cable news competition and all other cable TV channels, but all of the commercial broadcast networks as well.  On Tuesday, TV Newser (free registration required) headlined its report on Monday's ratings "Fox News Tops Cable and Broadcast Nets for Start of U.S.-North Korea Summit Coverage."  On Wednesday, it was as though the good old days of 2002-2016 had returned as TV Newser described Tuesday's Nielsen ratings as "Fox News had more viewers in prime time than CNN and MSNBC combined."

Sean Hannity interviews President Trump in Singapore on June 12 after the summit.

All of Fox News's prime-time programs eclipsed the cable news competition on Monday and Tuesday, but the far and away winner was Sean Hannity, who made the day-long trip to Singapore last weekend in order to be in place to broadcast live from halfway around the world all this week.  As has been endlessly pointed out, Singapore is almost 10,000 miles from New York and 12 hours ahead of U.S. East Coast time, so 9 P.M. in New York and Washington, D.C. is 9 A.M. the next morning in Singapore.  With the Trump-Kim summit starting at 9 A.M. local time Tuesday, that was perfect for maximum U.S. prime-time viewing during the hours of 8-11 P.M. E.T. on Monday.

According to Monday's Nielsen Media Research television ratings:

Hannity was the top-rated program in all of primetime with 5.9 million total viewers, outpacing both broadcast primetime and all of cable.  In the 25-54 demo, Hannity averaged 1,486,000, which was number one across cable and ranked second across broadcast last night.  Additionally, the program beat CNN's Cuomo Primetime and MNSBC's Special Coverage combined audience with P2+ [viewers age 2 and older].  In fact, Hannity's June 11th telecast was an all-time high in both total viewers and the demo since the program moved back to the 9PM/ET timeslot (9/25/17).

Chris Cuomo on the set of his prime-time CNN program during its trial run, Jan. 11, 2018.

Summit Week was week number two for CNN host Chris Cuomo's move from mornings to 9 P.M.  Longtime CNN anchor Anderson Cooper's two-hour show AC360 (8-10 P.M.) was cut in half to one hour to make room for Cuomo Prime Time.  Despite the switch, and the promotion surrounding it, Cuomo Prime Time has been underperforming.  Typically, a new show enjoys a ratings bounce when it starts.  On Tuesday, however, Cooper's 8-9 P.M. hour actually outperformed Cuomo's hour that followed.  Cooper had 1.087 million total viewers and 370,000 in the age 25-54 demo, while Cuomo had 1.008 million viewers and 307,000 in the demo.  (Hannity had a strong show Tuesday at 9 P.M., featuring his recorded interview with President Trump conducted shortly after the conclusion of the summit.  Video of the entire program was uploaded by Fox News.)

Hannity was accompanied to Singapore by a large production staff that also included support personnel for his daily three-hour radio show, which he continued to broadcast live back to the United States (between 3 and 6 A.M. Singapore time).  Hannity made use of Fox News contributors Sara Carter, Sebastian Gorka, and Daniel Hoffman, who were also in Singapore.  Early in the week, Fox News's news department personnel Bret Baier, John Roberts, and Ed Henry also reported from Singapore.

CNN's Anderson Cooper made the trek to Singapore, as did NBC's lead anchor, Lester Holt.  MSNBC's coverage, however, on Monday and Tuesday was given its own title and renamed for the event as "Nuclear Summit," with "fully branded graphics."  Fox News and CNN stayed with programs branded as usual – Tucker Carlson, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Fox News@Night on Fox and Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon on CNN.

MSNBC "Nuclear Summit" special programming opening graphic.

Fox News reclaiming a solid number-one position among the three major cable news channels is definitely news.  At the same time, not to be overlooked is the fact that CNN is continuing to struggle in a distant third place.  It appears that when partisan left viewers want to access the heart of the anti-Trump Resistance, they flock to MSNBC, which unabashedly has claimed the leading mainstream media opposition role to the 45th president.  In reality, CNN is every bit as negative in its coverage of Trump, but it persists in insisting that it is objective in its reporting.  Plus its lineup of talent for the most part is aging and tired and – having transitioned from moderately left of center to rabidly fringe left in two years – appears to be role-playing as often as not.  In contrast, MSNBC's stable of talent (think Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Joy Reid, and Lawrence O'Donnell) is openly and unapologetically leftist.  A takeaway may be that viewers – both left and right – appreciate a degree of sincerity in their program hosts.

The theory that holds that Fox News and MSNBC succeed in the ratings because they are able to micro-target pro- and anti-Trump viewers respectively is borne out by the latest poll by Reuters-Ipsos, released on Wednesday, which found majority approval for Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore:

Just over half of all Americans say they approve of how President Donald Trump has handled North Korea.

The Summit Week was a good one for President Trump – perhaps his best week yet.  There was scant negative news about Stormy Daniels, Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, Michael Cohen, etc.  Therefore, people who wanted fair news about Trump and the summit, or who support Trump, were drawn to Fox News, where the news coverage is more objective and the evening opinion programs are favorable to the president.

Jeff Zucker, 2010.  Photo by David Shankbone.  Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons license.

In a related development, on Tuesday, a federal judge approved AT&T's $85-million purchase of Time Warner, which owns CNN.  Incredibly, despite new corporate ownership that is usually accompanied by executive shakeups at the businesses that are absorbed, it was reported that CNN head Jeff Zucker's contract had been extended to 2020 under the current ownership and that AT&T will approve of his staying on.  Zucker is widely credited with, or blamed for, CNN's hard left turn since 2016.  He is also responsible for being the architect of CNN's lagging programming schedule.  He has been the president of CNN since 2013 and previously was a top executive at NBC for more than two decades, starting as a researcher in 1986 and eventually rising to the top jobs at the network and NBC Universal before being forced out in 2010.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture.  He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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