Analysis: CNN The Clear Ratings Winner For Big Moments, But FNC Only Channel Up From 2008

By Alex Weprin 

The final ratings are in, and there were clear patterns among cable news viewers. For the three most important moments of the night: President Obama’s win, Mitt Romney’s concession speech and President Obama’s acceptance speech, CNN was the most watched channel on cable news.

Meanwhile, Fox News viewers seemed to have little interest in watching President Obama, as the network lost more than eight million viewers from 11 PM to his speech just after 1:30 AM. CNN only lost two million viewers, while MSNBC only lost one million viewers.

Fox News did get some very important bragging rights however: it was the only cable news channel to post ratings gains compared to election night 2008, seeing increases in just about every hour. CNN was down around 20% compared to 2008, and MSNBC was down every hour in primetime compared to 2008.

The key moments:

  • From 11PM-12 AM, the hour in which every network called the race for President Obama:

CNN – 10.79M total viewers / 5.31M 25-54
FNC – 10.10M total viewers / 4.36M 25-54
MSNBC – 5.54M total viewers / 2.45M 25-54

  • Mitt Romney’s concession speech:

CNN – 8.97M / 4.56M
FNC – 4.04M / 1.90M
MSNBC – 4.52M / 2.10M (1amET average. Romney’s speech was 12:55-1:01)

  • President Obama’s acceptance speech:

CNN – 7.80M total viewers / 4.07M 25-54
MSNBC – 4.52M total viewers / 2.10M 25-54
FNC – 2.22M total viewers / 1.17M 25-54.

Other notes:

Fox News ratings peaked during the 9 PM hour in total viewers, and at 10 PM in the demo. The numbers dropped precipitously once it became clear Obama would win.

CNN peaked at 11 PM in both total and demo viewers, as the final poll closings were announced. MSNBC also peaked at 11 PM in both categories.