Boy Scout Boosts Afternoon Cable Ratings

By Brian 

When Utah’s missing boy scout was found yesterday, the cable news networks enjoyed a significant ratings boost. For Nielsen’s purposes, each net spent a different amount of time on “breaking news” or “special report” coverage:

CNN gained the most, on a percentage basis. The 2pm hour of Live From averaged 288,000 viewers — until the breaking news at 2:53pm. Between 2:53 and 4:13pm, CNN averaged 709,000 viewers — more than twice as many. When Inside Politics returned, many of the viewers tuned out; the network averaged 483,000 viewers between 4:13 and 5pm.

The 2pm hour of Fox News Live averaged 758,000 viewers, until 2:59pm, when FNC began “special report” coverage. Between 2:59 and 3:41pm, the network added more than half a million viewers, averaging 1,381,000. It climbed to 1,504,000 viewers between 3:41 and 3:47pm, when the sheriff held a press conference. As the coverage continued from 3:47 to 4:09pm, FNC averaged 1,462,000 viewers. Your World, which aired from 4:09 to 5pm, averaged 1,150,000.

MSNBC didn’t breakout the numbers the same way, but we can see the breaking news effect in the time period data: In the 2pm hour, MS averaged 95,000 viewers; between 3 and 4pm, viewership rose to 164,000; and between 4 and 5pm, it was up to 183,000. Between 5 and 6pm, it declined to 128,000.