After years of audience growth, cable news may have hit a wall.
According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the News Media report, cable news viewership for CNN, MSNBC and Fox News fell substantially in 2010 — 13.7 percent in aggregate for a sharper decline than any other sector. Broadcast news, which has experienced declining viewership for years, was down another 3.4 percent in 2010.
And the cable news networks’ declines were sharpest in primetime, where median viewership plummeted 16 percent to an average of 3.2 million, while daytime tune-in was down 12 percent.
And for the first time in the dozen years since PEJ has been monitoring the cable news networks, every channel was down. CNN — with its well-publicized primetime woes — was down the most in 2010, dropping 37% to 564,000 viewers. But Fox News, the No. 1 cable news network, declined 11 percent. And MSNBC — which finished 2010 ahead of CNN in primetime in news’ target demographic of 25-54-year-olds and total viewers — was down 5 percent.
“What [the audience erosion] suggests is that we may have reached a peak in cable news viewership,” says Amy S. Mitchell, Deputy Director for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “It’s not that people are not watching cable, they’re just not turning to news as much.”
Cable News Ratings Keep Dropping
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