2015 Ratings: CNN Up Big In Prime Time and Key Demo

By Brian Flood Comment

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CNN finishes 2015 up +38 percent in prime time viewers and up +30 percent in prime time among the key A25-54 demo, compared to 2014. Last year the network saw a record low in total viewers, so the growth helps make CNN the fastest growing Top 40 cable network among the key demo. CNN’s prime time numbers were boosted by three presidential primary debates, which were among the most-watched programs in cable TV history. Despite the growth, CNN finished No. 22 overall among all basic cable networks during prime time.

CNN’s GOP debate in Simi Valley was the most watched program ever on the network, averaging 23.1 million total viewers. The network’s October Democratic candidate’s debate was the highest-rated Dem primary debate in history (15.5 million) and the Republican debate from Las Vegas was the third most watched primary debate ever (18.2 million). The GOP debates represent two of the Top 3 non-sports cable telecasts on record in total viewers. However, none of the CNN debates were able to surpass FNC’s GOP Debate that drew nearly 24 million viewers.

The ratings for 2015 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 712,000 Total Viewers / 235,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 490,000 Total Viewers / 149,000 A25-54

CNN ends 2015 with its biggest ratings advantage over MSNBC in 10 years, while finishing behind only Fox News in all three day parts among both total viewers and the demo. CNN also finished the year ranked No. 1 during weekend prime time among the key demo and beat MSNBC across all the M-F prime time hours in the demo for the first time since 2006. Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon grew compared to last year, each ranking No. 2 in the demo.

Check out the full CNN release:

CNN IS THE FASTEST GROWING TOP 40 CABLE NET IN 2015 AMONG ADULTS 25-54

RANKS #2 IN ALL KEY DAYPARTS; #1 IN WEEKEND PRIME

Biggest Advantage over MSNBC in 10 Years; Narrowest Gap with Fox News in Seven Years;

CNN’s New Day Tops MSNBC’s Morning Joe for Second Straight Year

CNN’s Original Series Dominate Respective Timeslots

CNN ends 2015 with its best yearly ratings and in the best competitive position the network has seen in years. CNN is the fastest growing Top 40 cable network among adults 25-54 and is the youngest of the major cable news networks.  CNN had its biggest ratings advantage over MSNBC in 10 years this year and narrowest gap with Fox News in seven years in the demo.  For the first time in seven years (since 2008), CNN ranks #2 across all three dayparts (Total Day, M-Su and M-F prime), in both total viewers and the demo 25-54.  CNN’s New Day outperformed Morning Joe in the demo for the second straight year, growing double digits in both total viewers and 25-54.  CNN’s signature news programming including Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, D.C.-based and Sunday morning programming all grew vs. last year, ranking #2 in the demo 25-54.  For the year, CNN dayside beat MSNBC by +84% in total viewers and by an impressive +169% in the demo 25-54 rating.  CNN also ranked #1 this year in weekend primetime.  CNN Original Series programming delivered a strong ratings performance as well, dominating their respective time slots this year.

CNN’s presidential candidates’ debates were among the most watched programs on cable this year, breaking network records going back to 1993 in total viewers among Live+SD. CNN’s GOP debate in Simi Valley was the most watched program ever on CNN averaging 23.1 million total viewers, the network’s October Democratic candidate’s debate was the highest-rated Dem primary debate in history (15.5 million) and the recent Republican debate from Las Vegas was the third most watched primary debate ever (18.2 million).  The GOP debates represent 2 of the top 3 non-sports cable telecasts on record (back to 1993) in total viewers.

2015 CNN

  • CNN is delivering yearly ratings highs in 2015:
  • Total Day:  highest total viewers in six years (since 2009) and among 25-54 since 2011;
  • M-Su/M-F Prime:  highest in total viewers and 25-54 in six years (since 2009);
  • Morning: highest in total viewers since 2009 and 25-54 since 2011;
  • M-F 7p hour and 8p hour: highest in total viewers and 25-54 in six years (since 2009);
  • M-F 9p hour:  highest in total viewers and demo 25-54 since 2011;
  • M-F 10p hour: highest demo 25-54 since 2012.

CNN is in best competitive position in years:

o   Only cable news network up vs. a year ago across Total Day and M-Su/M-F Prime among both total viewers and adults 25-54;

o   Posted the most growth in cable news vs. a year ago across Total Day and M-Su/M-F Prime among both total viewers and adults 25-54;

o   Ranked #1 across cable news in Weekend Prime in 25-54;

o   Topped MSNBC across all the M-F primetime hours (7p, 8p, 9p and 10p) in the demo for the first time in nine years (since 2006);

o   Posted its best yearly advantage over MSNBC in 10 years among 25-54 and in six to seven years in total viewers in Total Day, M-Su and M-F Prime;

o   Narrowed the gap with Fox News to its smallest in Total Day and M-Su/M-F Prime in seven years among 25-54, and six years among total viewers.

MSNBC/Fox News dayparts:

  • MSNBC is the only cable news net down from last year across Total Day and M-Su/M-F Prime in the demo, posting the largest and only double-digits declines;
  • MSNBC hit its lowest yearly Total Day (91k) delivery in 16 years (since 1999) and lowest in M-Su and M-F Prime in 11 years (since 2004) among 25-54;
  • Fox News hit its lowest Total Day (209k) and 2nd lowest Dayside (207k; after 2014) deliveries among 25-54 in 14 years (since 2001).
  • CNN is among the fastest growing Top 40 cable networks:
  • In Total Day, CNN is posting the largest growth among 25-54 (+19%) and the 2nd largest increase among total viewers (+23%; behind only Hallmark Movies & Mysteries);
  • In M-Su Prime, CNN is posting the largest growth in total viewers (+38%) and the 2nd largest increase in the demo 25-54 (+30%; behind only FXX);
  • In M-F Prime, CNN is posting the largest increase in total viewers (+46%) and the 2nd largest growth among 25-54 (+39%; behind only FXX).
  • CNN posts the youngest median age of the major cable news nets: 
  • CNN is the youngest of the three major cable news nets – 59 years in Prime (M-Su) and 61 in Total Day.
  • Fox News is posting its oldest yearly median age on record in both M-Su Prime (68 years; tied with 2014 and 2013) and Total Day (67 years).
  • MSNBC is posting its oldest yearly median age on record in both M-Su Prime and Total Day (63 years).

CNN Program Highlights:

Mornings:

  • New Day (and HLN) beat MSNBC’s Morning Joe for the second straight year in the demo 25-54 (114 vs. 93), while Joe ranks #4.  CNN is now posting its biggest morning show advantage over MSNBC in seven years.  During the 6-9a time period, CNN is having its best yearly performance in the demo since 2011 and in total viewers since 2009.   New Day also grew this year, increasing +14% in total viewers and +10% in the demo, while Joe is down -7% in the demo, posting its 2nd worst demo performance in 16 years (since 1999; tied with 2007 and after 2005). Fox & Friends is down -5% in total viewers and -9% in the demo and is registering its lowest yearly performance in total viewers in seven years and in the demo in 14 years (since 2001).  CNN is seeing its largest yearly share of the cable news morning audience among 25-54 (20%; tied with 2009) in seven years (since 2008), and in total viewers (18%) in six years (since 2009).

Dayside:

  • CNN’s Dayside programming (9a-4p) averaged its highest total viewer delivery in six years (since 2009) easily topping MSNBC in both total viewers (540k vs. 294k) and the demo 25-54 (137k vs. 51k). CNN grew the most this year during the day, increasing +17% in total viewers and +13% in the demo, while MSNBC lost -23% of its dayside audience in the demo, posting its lowest delivery in 17 years (since 1998 in the key demo).

Fringe & Primetime:

  • The Lead with Jake Tapper ranked #2 in cable news, easily topping MSNBC in both total viewers (600k vs. 353k) and in the demo (151k vs. 54k). The Tapper-led program also ended the year growing +22% in total viewers and +21% in the demo.
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer also ranked #2 in cable news, besting MSNBC in both total viewers (617k vs. MSNBC’s 501k ) and in the demo (180k vs. 73k). The Situation Room was up in total viewers (+20%) and in the demo (+21%) vs. a year ago.
  • Erin Burnett Outfront topped MSNBC’s Hardball in the demo (202k vs. 131k) for the second consecutive year.  EBOF grew the most at 7pm, increasing +25% in total viewers and +24% in the demo 25-54, while MSNBC is down -2%/-18% respectively.  MSNBC is registering its lowest 7pm hour performance in 10 years (since 2005) in the demo 25-54.
  • Anderson Cooper 360 ended the year ranking #2 in both total viewers (719k) and the demo 25-54 (225k), easily topping MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes (648k/125k).  AC360 has now topped MSNBC for three consecutive years in the key demo 25-54.  Compared to last year, 360 is up +25% among total viewers and +18% in the demo, while MSNBC is down -18% in the demo, posting its lowest demo delivery in 16 years (since 1999).
  • CNN programming at 9p ended the year topping MSNBC’s signature primetime program The Rachel Maddow Show (210k vs. 172k) in the key demo 25-54.  CNN at 9p also grew in both demos vs. last year, increasing +7% in total viewers and +6% in the demo.  Maddow is down -17% in the demo vs. last year and is registering its lowest 25-54 delivery on record.
  • CNN Tonight with Don Lemon will end 2015 as the #2 program in cable news at 10pm in the demo, easily topping MSNBC’s Last Word (196k vs. MSNBC’s 133k).  CNN at 10pm increased in both total viewers (+8%) and in the demo (+7%), while MSNBC lost viewers in the demo (-18%).  MSNBC is posting its lowest 10p time period 25-54 delivery in 16 years (since 1999) and lowest in total viewers in eight years (since 2007). Last Word, which debuted in late 2010, is averaging its lowest yearly total viewer and demo delivery on record.

Saturdays:

  • New Day Saturday ranked #2 in cable news among total viewers and was up each hour by double-digits (6-9a) compared to a year ago.
  • Smerconish grew the most during the 9am time period, increasing +25% in total viewers and +20% in the demo 25-54.  The show ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers (581k) and in the demo (149k).
  • CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield ranked #1 in the demo 25-54 from 12noon-3p, growing double digits in both the 1p and 2p hours vs. a year ago.
  • CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow ranked #1 during the 3-6p hours in the demo, growing each hour compared to last year.

Sundays:

  • State of the Union with Jake Tapper ends the year ranking #2 and growing the most in its time period on Sundays.  At 9am SOTU averaged 518k in total viewers and grew +25% vs. last year and had 134k in the demo increasing +13%. At noon, SOTU averaged 601k/136k and increasing +16%/+8% respectively.
  • Fareed Zakaria GPS ranked #2 in both total viewers (614k) and the demo (157k), increasing +20%/+13% at 10a vs. last year.  At 1pm, GPS also ranked #2 averaging 521k/118k and increased +3%/+3% respectively.
  • Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter was the only major cable news program at 11am on Sundays to growth in both total viewers and the demo 25-54 vs. last year.  Reliable ranked #2 in both total viewers (522k; +12%) and in the demo 25-54 (133k; +3%).  Fox News was down -6% in the demo and MSNBC was off -5% in total viewers and down -25% in the demo 25-54.

CNN Original Series Highlights:

o   Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man Season 3 (1/22-3/19/15):  Posted its highest season performance ever among both total viewers and the demo 25-54.  The program ranked #2 across cable news in its time period among both 25-54 and P18-34.  Beat MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show in the hour by +56% in 25-54 and delivered more than five times the 18-34 audience. Attracted the youngest audience (median age of 54 years) across cable news in its time period.

o   Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery (3/1-4/5/15):  Ranked #1 across cable news in its time period among total viewers, 25-54 and 18-34, outperforming the combined delivery of Fox News and MSNBC in both total viewers and 25-54.  Every premiere episode also ranked #1 across cable news in its time period among both total viewers and 25-54.

o   The Wonder List with Bill Weir (3/1-4/12/15):  Across cable news in its time period, ranked #1 in 25-54, and #2 in both total viewers and 18-34.  In its time period, beat MSNBC by +51% in total viewers and more than doubled Fox News among 18-34.

o   High Profits (4/19-6/14/15): Ranked #1 in both 25-54 and 18-34 across cable news in its time period.

o   Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Season 5 (4/26-6/21/15): Posted its highest season performance ever among both 25-54 and 18-34.  Ranked #1 across cable news in its time period among both 25-54 and 18-34 during the season, outperforming the combined delivery of Fox News and MSNBC in both demos.  Placed #2 in total viewers among cable news in the hour, more than doubling MSNBC.  Every premiere episode also ranked #1 across cable news in its time period among both 25-54 and 18-34.  Attracted the youngest audience (median age of 50 years) across cable news in its time period.  Saw its largest DVR playback ever for a Parts Unknown season among both total viewers and 25-54.

o   The Seventies (6/11-8/13/15): Ranked #2 among total viewers, 25-54 and 18-34 across cable news in its time period.  Beat MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show in the hour by +93% in  25-54, +9% in total viewers and more than doubled it in 18-34. Versus The Sixties season average, the show was up in both 25-54 and 18-34.

o   Death Row Stories Season 2 (7/12-8/16/15):  Across cable news in its time period, ranked #1 among both total viewers and 25-54, and #2 in 18-34. Outperformed Fox News in the hour by +52% in 18-34.  Above its Season 1 average in both demos total viewers and 25-54.

o   The Hunt with John Walsh Season 2 (7/12-8/30/15):  Across cable news in its time period, ranked #1 among both 25-54 and 18-34, and #2 in total viewers.  More than doubled MSNBC in the hour among total viewers.

o   Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Season 6 (9/27-11/15/15): Across cable news in its time period, ranked #1 among both 25-54 and 18-34, outperforming the combined delivery of Fox News and MSNBC in each demo.  Ranked #2 among total viewers, more than tripling MSNBC.  Every premiere episode also ranked #1 among both 25-54 and 18-34 across cable news in its time period, outperforming the combined 18-34 delivery of FXNC and MSNBC.  Attracted the youngest audience (median age of 53 years) across cable news in its time period.

o   Mike Rowe’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It Season 3 (9/27-11/29/15): Across cable news in its time period, ranked #1 among both 25-54 and 18-34, and #2 among total viewers.  Ahead of MSNBC in the hour by +65% in total viewers.

o   This is Life with Lisa Ling Season 2 (9/30-12/13/15): Across cable news in its time period, ranked #2 among 25-54 and #1 in 18-34.  Beat MSNBC in the hour by +32% in 25-54.  Every premiere episode also topped MSNBC.  Attracted the youngest audience (median age of 56 years) across cable news in its time period.  Above its Season 1 average (Wed/Sun 9p vs. Sun 10p) by +4% in total viewers.

Source: The Nielsen Company.  Original Series: 4/14/13-12/13/15.  Premieres only. Live+7 data.  Median age based on P2+.

CNN Films and CNN Films Presents Highlights:

o   CNN Films: Life Itself (Premiere Sun 1/4/15). Ranked #1 across cable news in its time period among both total viewers and 25-54, more than doubling Fox News in 25-54 (+151%) and MSNBC in total viewers (+121%).

o   CNN Films Presents: Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me (Premiere Sun 6/28/15). Ranked #6 in ALL of television (124 networks) and #4 in ALL of cable (behind only BET, TNT and HBO) in its time period among total viewers.  Highest-rated premiere in CNN Films franchise history among both total viewers and 25-54.

o   CNN Films:  Evocateur:  The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (Premiere 8/20/15).  Across cable news in its time period, ranked #2 among both 25-54 and 18-34.

o   CNN Films: Fresh Dressed (Premiere Thu 9/3/15). Ranked #2 in 18-34 across cable news in its time period.  Posted a median age of 51 years, the 3rd youngest among the 19 CNN Films and 4 CNN Films Presents premieres to-date.

o   CNN Films: The Hunting Ground (Premiere Sun 11/22/15): Ranked #1 in 25-54 and #2 in total viewers across cable news in its time period.

Source: The Nielsen Company.  CNN Films and CNN Films Presents: 3/10/13-11/22/15.  Live+7 data.  Median age based on P2+.

Data is blend of Live+SD and the more inclusive Live+3 and final Live+7 when available.  Data is run from 12/29/14-12/25/15 and does not include the last two days of year, 12/26 and 12/27.

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