Is “Fusion” a Stretch or the New Metric?

By Chris Ariens 

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DailyFinance’s Jeff Bercovici takes an alternative look at the second quarter cable news ratings race which ends tomorrow. The idea? There’s more than one screen on which to consume a network’s news.

“We used to be a television business,” Jack Wakshlag, head of research for Turner Broadcasting tells Bercovici, whose site is run by AOL, about to be spun off from CNN’s parent, Time Warner. “We see our future in terms of being a multi-platform media company.”

As it happens, Nielsen, the ratings firm, recently started tracking such a metric. It’s called Nielsen Fusion, and it combines viewership and online usage data. The Fusion rankings for April show CNN with a commanding lead over both MSNBC and Fox News when it comes to reach among all viewers. (That’s looking at the full day, not just primetime.) CNN reached 125.3 million people in April, versus 105.5 milllion for MSNBC and 104.3 million for Fox.

That’s not really a surprise. CNN has always beaten Fox and MSNBC in reach, or cumulative audience. (Fox and MSNBC counter that advertisers make their buys based on ratings, not cumulative reach, which doesn’t reflect duration of viewership.)

And FNC’s response, “Apparently the sheer embarrassment of getting beat by both Headline News and MSNBC along with the continued implosion of Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper has led CNN to its latest act of desperation,” a Fox News spokesman tells Bercovici. “We wish Jack well in continuing to defend their battle for fourth place.”