October 2011 Ratings: New Lineup (And a Debate) Leads CNN to Second Place Finish in Primetime

By Alex Weprin 

CNN’s new primetime lineup, leading off with Erin Burnett and featuring a double-dose of Anderson Cooper, along with a highly-rated GOP debate, delivered solid October numbers for the cable channel.

The ratings for October, 2011:

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 638K Total Viewers / 201K A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 409K Total Viewers / 128K A25-54

In primetime, CNN is up +13% in total viewers and +22% in the key adults 25-54 demographic compared to last year, placing it second behind Fox News in the demo. Both MSNBC and Fox News were down double digits in both categories in primetime.Of course, CNN had the benefit of a highly-rated GOP primary debate, which inflated the numbers a bit.

In total day CNN was essentially flat in total viewers, and up slightly in the demo. Both FNC and MSNBC were down, though not as dramatically as in primetime.

The big move was the launch of “Erin Burnett OutFront” at 7 PM, leading off the channel’s primetime lineup. “OutFront” improved upon the numbers from “John King USA” a year ago by +7% in total viewers and +8% in the demo. In addition, “AC360” topped MSNBC in the demo at both 8 and 10 PM, though MSNBC was still on top in total viewers. “AC360” was up +10% in total viewers and +21% in the demo at 8 PM compared to a year ago, when “Rick’s List” and “Parker Spitzer” held the slot. At 10 PM, “AC360” was down -9% in total viewers and up +2% in the demo.

“Piers Morgan Tonight” had a mixed month, falling -10% in total viewers compared to “Larry King Live” last October, but growing +4% in the demo.

The expected CNN morning shakeup cannot come soon enough for the channel, as “American Morning” continued to decline, dropping -10% in total viewers and -3% in the demo compared to October, 2010.

CNN’s press release is below.



CNN Up Over Last Year Online and On Mobile

October Highlights:

While CNN grows in primetime vs. a year ago, MSNBC and FNC primetime programming have double-digit losses.
At 8p and 10p, AC 360 tops MSNBC in the key demo 25-54 and grows vs. a year ago; while MSNBC and FNC experience double-digit declines.
Piers Morgan Tonight is the only 9pm program to grow among 25-54, while MSNBC and FNC are down double-digits.
Erin Burnett OutFront at 7p grows from CNN programming a year ago.

Despite the cable news network’s significant ratings bump due to heightened viewership from the rescue of the Chilean miners last October, CNN showed growth in key day parts and primetime programming while MSNBC and FNC declined vs. a year ago.

In M-F prime (8-11p), CNN topped MSNBC in the key demo (233k vs. 197k) and was up +25% vs. a year ago. MSNBC was down -25% and FNC was off -28% among 25-54. (Omitting CNN’s Republican debate on October 18, CNN averaged 197k in the key demo, tying MSNBC. Without the Republican debate, CNN also still grew vs. a year ago – increasing +5% among 25-54.)

CNN outperformed MSNBC in total day (6a-6a) among total viewers (409k vs. 402k) during October. In addition, CNN grew +5% in the key demo (128k vs. 122k), MSNBC was down -10% (129k vs. 143k) and FNC lost -15% of its audience (253k vs. 299k) compared to a year ago.

CNN also topped MSNBC during dayside programming (M-F 9a-5p) in total viewers (519k vs. 344k) and in the demo 25-54 (139k vs. 85k). Compared to a year ago, CNN increased +5% in the key demo 25-54; MSNBC was up +5% and FNC was down -16%.

Show Highlights:

8p, ET: Anderson Cooper 360 topped MSNBC in the demo (178k vs. 175k) for the third consecutive month. The CNN program was the only program at 8 pm to show growth vs. a year ago– increasing +21% (178k vs. 147k), while MSNBC was down a staggering -36% (175k vs. 272k) and FNC dropped -28%.

9p, ET: Piers Morgan Tonight is also the only show at 9 pm to gain demo viewers compared to last year – increasing +4% (176k vs. 170k) , while MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show is down -21% (217k vs. 276k) and FNC declined -24% (457k vs. 598k).

10p, ET: Anderson Cooper 360 continued to top MSNBC in the demo (234k vs. 188k). October represents the 6th straight month that AC 360 topped MSNBC at 10p in the key demo 25-54. Despite heightened viewership a year ago, AC 360 grew +2% (234k vs. 229k), MSNBC is down -22% (188k v. 241k) and FNC lost one quarter of its audience, declining -25% (376k vs. 503k).

7p, ET: Launch-to-date (October 3-28) Erin Burnett OutFront has also seen growth compared to CNN programming a year ago, increasing +8% in the key demo (146k vs. 135k) and growing +7% in total viewers (490k vs. 458k). MSNBC is down -3% among 25-54 vs. a year ago (177k vs. 183k) and FNC is off -16% (379k vs. 449k).

4p, ET: Launch-to-date (October 3-28) The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (new time slot) topped MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan in both total viewers (674k vs. 401k) and among 25-54 (175k vs. 92k). The Sit Room also grew compared to programming a year ago, increasing +26% in the key demo (175k vs. 139k) while MSNBC is down -5% (92k vs. 97k) and FNC is off -15% (235k vs. 278k).


CNN reached a cumulative audience of 95.2 million viewers in October, FNC followed with 78.5 million, while MSNBC was third with 77.7 million.

CNN Digital:


CNN.com had nearly 1.2 billion page views and watched 95.1 million videos globally during the month of October. Video starts were up 15% over last month and 13% over last year.

The World Section on CNN.com had 96.0 million page views, an increase of 37% over last year, as two of the month’s top five articles were about the Amanda Knox trial. The Tech Section had 31.7 million page views, up 19% over last year. The largest increase occurred in the Opinion Section, with a 72% boost in page views since October 2010.

CNN.com’s top three blogs this month were The Political Ticker, This Just In and The Marquee Blog, which contributed to October traffic. Among the top five blogs, CNN’s Belief Blog saw a 14% increase in page views since October 2010. (Source: Omniture)

CNN Mobile

Global page views for CNN’s mobile website reached 204.4 million and were up 24% compared to last October. (Source: Bango Analytics, October 2011)

In September 2011, CNN Digital Network on mobile reached 20.7 million unique visitors, and continued a streak as the top mobile news property for over 4 years. (Source: Nielsen Mobile MediaView, September 2011 – most recent available)