Sunday Shows, Part II

Careful readers of the inner pages of the Style section yesterday (C7 to be exact) might have noticed the half-page ad for Chris Wallace and Fox News Sunday. It quotes a 2005 article in the Post as saying, “…’Fox News Sunday’ outdraws ‘This Week’….” The quote’s a tad misleading since if you read further, the caveat is “in the Washington area.” Nevertheless, Fox does tend to beat ABC News’ Sunday talk-a-thon hands down among the Washington crowd.

Fox likes to claim that its win in Washington is especially important because D.C. is “the most relevant market for these four shows as DC is where the programs and guests are based. FNS continues to move forward in DC, getting closer to FTN, while MTP remains the leader,” Fox spokesperson Paul Schur tells FishbowlDC.

For instance, on this past Sunday in D.C., Meet got a 4.6 rating, FNS got a 1.7 rating, Face got a 1.6 rating, and This Week got a 1.2 rating.

Of course that view has merit, but ratings are always about how you slice the data. ABC sees a very different picture: “It’s just ridiculous that Fox thinks it can get away with saying that Fox News Sunday ‘outdraws’ This Week. Nationally, they are always in 4th place, they have never beaten This Week, and rarely score above 1.5 million viewers and that’s on a good day,” an ABC spokesperson said.

On Sunday April 9, for example, This Week nationally had more than twice as many viewers as Fox — 2.65 million versus Fox’s 1.3 million.

And, in fact, just about any way you slice it, George Stephanopoulos‘ audience is growing nationally while Fox’s is shrinking. According to the Nielsen ratings, for the first quarter of 2006, “This Week” experienced the best year-to-year performance of any Sunday show, growing 13 percent in the key 25-54 demographic compared to the same quarter last year and growing 3 percent in Total Viewers.

By contrast, the super-dominant NBC’s “Meet the Press” was up 4 percent in the demographic and down 4 percent in Total Viewers, while “Face the Nation” was up 10% in the demo and 2 percent in Total Viewers. Fox News Sunday, by comparison, is down 15 percent in the demographic and 8 percent in Total Viewers.

So who’s right? Confused? Well, as Mark Twain quoted, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Here’s the bottom line, would ABC prefer to be #1 in DC? Sure. Would it trade its strong national growth to get it? No. On the other hand, Fox News Sunday would gladly trade its number one rating in the DC metro area for another million viewers each Sunday.