Q1 2014 Ratings: Despite Strong March, CNN Third For the Quarter

By Jordan Chariton 

CNN had its third-lowest overall quarter in primetime total viewers in 23 years (since 1991), ranking behind only the second quarter of 2012 and the final quarter of last year.

The ratings for Q1, 2014:

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 498K Total Viewers / 169K A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 383K Total Viewers / 122K A25-54

Compared to Q1 2013, CNN lost ground in both total day and primetime viewers. In total day, the network was down -5% in total viewers and flat in A25-54 viewers. For primetime, the net was down -16% in total viewers and down -3% in A25-54 viewers. Last year’s first quarter was CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker’s first at the helm, as Jake Tapper premiered as host of “The Lead,” and the network drew strong ratings for its Carnival Cruise incident coverage.

Although CNN was down overall for Q1, the month of March produced strong ratings thanks to nonstop coverage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The strong month propelled CNN past MSNBC into second place in the total day and primetime demo category. For the month, CNN averaged 655,000 total viewers and 231,000 A25-54 viewers in total day. In primetime, the network averaged 498,000 total viewers and 164,000 A25-54 viewers.

Compared to March 2013, the network was up +42% in total viewers and up +53% demo viewers for total day. In primetime, the net was up +37% in total viewers and up +65% in the demo year-over-year. Tapper’s “The Lead,” “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” and “Anderson Cooper 360” all moved up to the #2 spot in both total and demo viewers, passing their MSNBC counterparts, Alex Wagner, Ed Schultz, and Chris Hayes, respectively.

CNN’s full press release after the jump.

For the first time since last summer, CNN moved past MSNBC for the month and narrowed the gap significantly with Fox News. In March, CNN posted big ratings gains in total day and primetime, and had the largest year-over-year growth of any cable news network, while MSNBC shed viewers and Fox had small gains vs. a year ago. In March, CNN was #1 in weekend primetime (demo) and CNN topped MSNBC in primetime for 18 straight days, the network’s longest streak in six years.

In total day (M-Su 6a-6a), CNN ranked #2 among adults 25-54 and total viewers, with a +29% lead over MSNBC in the demo (164k vs. MSNBC’s 127k) and a +31% lead among total viewers (498k vs. 379k). CNN is up +53% in the demo and +42% in total viewers vs. a year ago. March 2014 was CNN’s best total day delivery since July 2013 and MSNBC’s lowest since last fall.

CNN also ranked #2 in weekday primetime (M-F 8-11pm) in the key demo 25-54 — averaging 240k — a +19% lead over MSNBC’s 201k. CNN grew significantly in primetime increasing +71% in the demo and +35% in total viewers vs. a year ago. MSNBC declined -9%/-8% in primetime this month. CNN also grew +65% among P25-54 and +37% in total viewers in M-Su primetime. March was CNN’s best primetime delivery since July 2013. CNN topped MSNBC in primetime among the key demo 25-54 for 18 consecutive days this month, the networks longest streak in six years (1/25/08-2/14/08).

CNN narrowed the gap with Fox this month, with the network posting its closest monthly demo performance since last summer (July 2013):

o Total day – In February Fox (225k) was ahead of CNN (97k) by 132%, in March, CNN (164k) closed the gap with Fox (236k) to 44%.

o Prime – In February Fox (317k) was ahead of CNN (136k) by 133%, this month, CNN (231k) closed the gap with Fox (309k) to 34%.

For the first time ever, Anderson Cooper 360 topped The O’Reilly Factor for three consecutive days at 8pm this month (3/12-3/14), while Erin Burnett Outfront topped Fox at 7pm for four consecutive days (3/13-3/18).

Below are CNN program highlights for March 2014:

New Day (6-9am) ranked #2 for the month in the key demo 25-54 rating (124k) topping MSNBC’s Morning Joe (116k). New Day saw double-digit growth, increasing +28% in the demo and +46% in total viewers, while Morning Joe declined -11%/-7%. New Day continues its longest winning streak over Morning Joe, now beating it 12 days in a row (3/13/14-3/28/14) among both P25-54 and total viewers.

Erin Burnett Outfront ranked #2 in the key demo (219k vs. MSNBC’s Hardball 198k) and grew the most of all the cable news networks at 7pm, increasing +86% in the demo and +48% in total viewers vs. a year ago.

AC 360 at 8pm ranked #2, topping MSNBC’s All In with Chis Hayes by +40% in the demo 25-54 (264k vs. MSNBC’s 189k) and in total viewers (726k vs. 705k). AC 360 saw significant growth from a year ago, increasing +70% in the demo rating and +36% among total viewers. AC 360 is the highest-rated weekday show on CNN this month.

CNN at 9pm (Piers Morgan Live) placed second in the demo — with MSNBC’s flagship primetime program The Rachel Maddow Show slipping to third (246k vs. MSNBC’s 235k). PML was up +95% in the demo rating and +31% in total viewers vs. a year ago.

CNN’s weekday Washington-based programming saw rating highlights month — with The Lead with Jake Tapper placing #2 in both the demo (164k) and total viewers (603k) and increasing +59% and +37% respectively vs. a year ago. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer at 5pm also ranked #2 in cable news in the demo rating (195k) and among total viewers (678k) — topping MSNBC’s The Ed Show (129k/519k). The Sit Room increased by +79% in the demo and +47% in total viewers compared to last year.

CNN Newsroom (9am-4pm) easily topped MSNBC this month – ranking #2 in the demo 25-54 (154k vs. MSNBC’s 86k) and in total viewers (544k vs. MSNBC’s 300k.) CNN Newsroom grew the most — increasing +34% in the demo rating, while MSNBC declined -5% and Fox +3%. In total viewers, Newsroom was up +29%, MSNBC declined -7% and Fox was off -2% compared to a year ago.

CNN’s weekend programming had notable gains this month as well. In March, CNN was #1 in primetime (Sa-Su 8-11pm) averaging 209k, MSNBC followed with 203k and Fox placed third with 175k among P25-54. CNN also saw the most growth – increasing +50% in the demo rating and +44% in total viewers. On Saturday mornings, CNN’s 9am hour (which includes the new program Smerconish) ranked #2 averaging 192k and growing +40% vs. a year ago, while MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki posted 106k in the demo 25-54 and declined -12%. On Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Fareed Zakaria GPS and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter all ranked #2 in their time periods and all had double digit growth vs. a year ago.

CNN also posted strong ratings performances for its new original programming in during Q1 2014:

In its Thursday, March 6th premiere at 10pm, CNN’s Chicagoland ranked #1 among adults 25-54 (305k) across cable news, +18% ahead of Fox and +47% ahead of MSNBC among adults 25-54. The program registered impressive levels of time-shifted viewing, increasing +56% from Live to Live+7 (196k vs. 305k).

CNN’s series premiere of Death Row Stories on Sunday, March 9th at 9pm, ranked #1 in its time-period across cable news, delivering 269k adults 25-54, 161% ahead of Fox and 130% ahead of MSNBC.

CNN’s Weed 2 sequel with Dr. Sanjay Gupta which premiered on Tuesday, March 11th at 10pm, was the #1 program in the time period among cable news networks for adults 25-54 (421k). The program out-performed Fox (373k) by +13% and MSNBC (190k) by +122%.

Best month ever for digital page views, video starts and mobile:

CNN Digital had its best month ever for global page views with 3.6B. The next highest month was April 2013 with 3B global page views (Boston manhunt).
• CNN Mobile also broke a record in March with 1.6B global page views.

CNN Digital also had its highest month ever for video with 266mm global video starts, topping March 2011’s 240mm video starts (Japanese tsunami).
• CNN Mobile also had its highest month for global video starts with a record 57mm.

In March, CNN hit 100 weeks as the #1 news organization for social mentions, beating the digital and TV competition.

(Sources: Adobe Reports & Analytics and Bango Analytics; March 1-March 30, 2014).
(Sysomos 4/30/2012-3/30/2014).