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The Drudge Report  31 December 2014 01:30

The Drudge Report
31 December 2014 01:30

 

Introduction

While looking through the news headlines over at the Drudge Report, I noticed this interesting string of headlines pertaining to the general state of the cable news industry.

What caught my eye was that not so much that Fox News is the most watched cable news network for the 13th straight year. This observation is easy to explain. From where I sit, Fox News provides a comprehensive news service that is based in objective reality to a much, much… and I mean much greater degree than its competitors. And this observation is supported by the evidence. But more about the evidence below…

Cable News Audience – Total Day Viewers

The more important aspect of these headlines is the second two, namely: “CNN facing all-time ratings lows…” and “Struggling MSNBC eyes changes to fix ratings…”. Now, one would think that since Fox News has been the cable news leader for “13 YEARS”, one could assume that CNN and MSNBC have had “13 YEARS” to make the necessary changes that would have allowed them to better compete with Fox News. To demonstrate just how dominant Fox News is, here is a graphical representation of the Cable News Audiences across the four cable news channels for 2014 (see here).

Daily News Audience Total Daily Viewers in '000

Cable News Audiences, 2014
Total Day Viewers

From the graph above, the evidence suggests that Fox News has a daily viewing audience which comprises a whopping 51% (1052/2055  where 2055= 1052+399+347+257) of total audience for the entire cable news industry. To put it another way, Fox News audience is 263% larger than it’s closest competitor CNN and 303% larger than the audience of MSNBC.

So what is the main take away from the above figures? What is really striking in these figures is that after “13 YEARS” of dominance in the cable news ratings by Fox News, the difference between the Daily Viewers between Fox News and CNN and MSNBC is not decreasing, but rather increasing. Or to put it another way, it would appear as if CNN and MSNBC are not being operated as commercial concerns.

Think about it for a second.

Cable News Audience – Prime Time Viewers

Now that we have identified this quite glaring anomaly, let’s see if we can diagnose the problem. Below is a chart of the Prime Time audience:

Cable News Audiences, 2014 Prime Time

Cable News Audiences, 2014
Prime Time Viewers, (8pm – 11pm ET)

From this graph above, the evidence suggests that Fox News, during prime time hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET has a viewing audience which comprises a whopping 55% (1756/3196) of total audience for the entire cable news industry. To put it another way, Fox News audience is 298% larger than it’s closest competitor MSNBC and 340% larger than the audience of CNN. And this is after “13 YEARS” of Fox domination.

So what have we observed so far? When looking at the daily viewing of the four cable news channels, we observe the disastrous results of the three competitors when compared with the results of Fox News. However, when looking at the Prime Time demographics, the disaster become even larger.

Diagnosis of the Problem

So why would the viewership of MSNBC, CNN and HLN drop as a proportion of total viewers during Prime Time hours? What is most likely the case is that during Prime Time, the cable networks provide the opinion and editorial content of their daily news programs. And the evidence above would suggest that not only is the news content “questionable” at these three cable news networks, but their opinion and editorial content is even more “suspect”.  The support for the a fore inference can be found in the New York Post article (see here):

A Pew Research study last year identified MSNBC as the most opinionated news network, with factual reporting accounting for just 15 percent of its content.

And there you have it. It would appear that a correlation exits between providing “opinionated content” and viewership of that “opinionated content”. And from the evidence presented above, the conclusion can be drawn that the “opinionated content” of MSNBC is being widely rejected by the cable news viewing audience.

So the question then becomes, why hasn’t MSNBC changed its news strategy to allow it to compete with Fox News? The answer that comes to mind is that MSNBC most likely sees it’s mission differently. It does not see its mission as a news provider at all, but rather as an opinion provider. Yes, the term “propaganda” is very much in order to describe the “news” content of MSNBC.

Which leads to a more important question, and that is this: Who is financing this “13 YEAR” strategy of failure and why? And a followup question, is this: since MSNBC’s parent is a publicly listed company (Comcast Corporation), why are the shareholders allowing this situation to persist? And furthermore, how much longer will the shareholders allow this type of a situation to persist?

Similar Story Time

On an aside, the above reminds me of a parallel situation that we Catholics are all too familiar with, namely the “50 YEARS” of FAILURE of the “New Springtime of the Spirit of Vatican II”. The new “opinionated content” gospel that is at the foundation of the “New Springtime” appears to be just as “suspect” as the “opinion content” of MSNBC. And a further striking similarity is that the Chief Executive Officers of both these organizations are approaching their respective failures in a similar manner, i.e. not focusing on the true nature of the “opinion content”. Here is a quote from the head of MSNBC, Phil Griffin:

MSNBC president Phil Griffin, whose cable news network is the only one among the big three to lose primetime viewers this season, told staffers he would look to turn things around by continuing a push for younger viewers in 2015.

and

Griffin, in a memo sent Monday, also promised “to get on the road — and outside of Washington” to broaden the network’s coverage.

However in the above diagnosis of the problem, the cause of the “13 YEARS” of failure is a problem with their propaganda “opinionated message”, not with the “making gospel relevant for young” “push for younger viewers” or getting “out into the peripheries” “outside of Washington to broaden the network’s coverage”. Or to put it more succinctly, their problem is that MSNBC confuses “news” with propaganda “opinion”. Here is the supporting proof:

“We have a long history of finding and nurturing great talent — and with an eye toward 2016 — we continued to build our next generation of top-notch journalists,” Griffin wrote.

This coming from a guy who runs a “news” channel where:

A Pew Research study last year identified MSNBC as the most opinionated news network, with factual reporting accounting for just 15 percent of its content.

Just got to wonder where all this new “journalism talent” will find some free air time on MSNBC to “journalize”.

Summa Summarum

Concluding, the most important point in the above described situation at MSNBC is this. What Mr. Griffin is doing is basically dishonest. He is trying to pass of propaganda “opinion” as “news”. And the cable news audience is not buying it.

Furthermore, the cable news viewers are not buying it any more than Catholics are buying Francis trying to pedal his Pentecostalism “gospel of joy and luv” as Catholicism. And the circumstantial evidence is even more damning than in the case of MSNBC. (see here and here)

But more on this in a future post.

On an aside, a very prosperous and Happy New Year to one and all.

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