February 2013 Ratings: Positive Signs For CNN, Despite Declines

By Alex Weprin 

New CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker’s first full month in charge shows some promising signs for the cable channel, even as inflated ratings from 2012 meant that most of the network’s programs (and most of cable news in general) were down compared to February of 2012.

The ratings for February 2013 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 659,000 Total Viewers / 193,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 424,000 Total Viewers / 130,000 A25-54

Compared to February 2012, CNN was down -19% in total viewers in primetime and -32% in the demo, it was also down -11% in total viewers and -20% in the demo in total day (Note: percentages are based on a blend of Nielsen Live + 7 and Live + 3 data). That said, because February 2012 was so anomalous  with major Republican primaries, debates and the coverage of Whitney Houston‘s death, the numbers were almost certainly inflated last year. That said, CNN is extremely close to MSNBC for second place in a number of categories, including total viewers in total day.

The good news for CNN is that a number of program managed to grow their ratings dramatically, despite the (relatively) slow news month.

7PM’s “Erin Burnett Outfront” was up +15% in total viewers and +11% in the demo compared to last year, while 8 PM’s “AC360” was up +42% and +27% in those categories, respectively. “Starting Point,” which will soon be canceled to make room for a new morning show, was up +27% and +21% in total and demo viewers, respectively. The 5 and 6 PM hours of “The Situation Room” were also up in both categories.

At 9 PM, “Piers Morgan Tonight” was down -3% in total viewers and -25% in the demo compared to last year, while the 10 PM re-air of “AC360” was down -21% and -34% in those categories. Morgan can say, however, that his program saw the smallest drop-off of any of the cable channels at 9 PM.

CNN’s February ratings release is below.



The Network Tops MSNBC during Dayside


CNN Evening Programs Show Growth vs. a Year Ago; FNC has Steep Declines in Key Demo



In February, CNN narrowed the total day gap with MSNBC to only -9k in total viewers (424k vs. 433k) and -11k in 25-54 (130k vs. 141k). At its recent monthly peak (October 2012), the gap was -180k in P2+ and -72k in 25-54.  Last month it was -43k in 2+ and -26k in target demo.


CNN also topped MSNBC during dayside programming (9a-5p) in both total viewers (475k vs. 412k) and in the key demo 25-54 (129k vs. 119k) this month.


Other CNN ratings highlights include:


Erin Burnett Outfront

  • Outfront was the only 7p show to grow vs. competitors – increasing +15% in total viewers (482k vs. 420k) and up +11% in the demo (148k vs. 133k) vs. last February.   Fox Report with Shep Smith was flat in P2+ and down -21% in the key demo and Hardball was down -7% in total viewers and off -5% in 25-54. 


Anderson Cooper 360

  • AC 360 at 8p had the most growth this month in cable news prime – increasing +42% in total viewers (791k vs. 559k) and +27% among 25-54 (236k vs. 186k) compared to a year ago.  While AC 360 grew this month, The O’Reilly Factor was down -3% in total viewers and -26% in 25-54 and The Ed Showdeclined -14% and -10% respectively.  This represents O’Reilly’s worst delivery at 8p since July 2008 in key demo 25-54. Outside of the November 2012 (Election) and March 2011 (Japan Tsunami), this month represents CNN’s best performance at 8p in over three years in both total viewers and 25-54.


Piers Morgan Tonight

  • Last year the cable news networks saw heightened viewing due to the political primaries, debates and the death of Whitney Houston. This year at 9pm all the nets saw declines vs. a year ago with PMT registering the smallest among total viewers (-3%), while FNC’s Hannity was off -11% and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show was down -6%.  In the demo 25-54, Hannity was down the most of all the networks, dropping -35% — representing the Hannity’s worst demo delivery since May 2006. 


The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

  • The Sit Room posted increases at 6p vs. a year ago — growing +15% in total viewers (522k vs. 455k) and increasing an impressive +25% in the key demo 25-54 (158k vs. 126k).  The show also grew the most vs. the competition, with FNC’s Special Report declining -15% in the demo and MSNBC’s Politics Nationdeclining -8% in total viewers.