Whitney Houston Death Drives Viewers to Cable News, CNN In Particular

By Alex Weprin 

Saturday night Mitt Romney won the Maine Caucus, but the big news was clearly the tragic and unexpected death of singer Whitney Houston. The cable news ratings reflected that.

As we reported Saturday night, news of Houston’s death was confirmed at 7:57pmET via the AP, and all three cable news channels broke into their regular programming in the 8 PM hour to report it.

CNN had by far the most viewers, though all of the channels were up over a typical Saturday night. Ratings peaked in the 9-10 PM hour for CNN and MSNBC, and Fox News in the demo.


CNN — 2.006M Total Viewers / 878K A25-54

FNC — 1.837M / 320K

MSNBC — 638K / 311K


CNN — 3.155M Total Viewers / 1.484M A25-54

FNC — 1.622M / 508K

MSNBC — 819K / 419K


CNN — 2.440M / 1.232M

FNC — 1.367M /442K

MSNBC — 685K / 289K

Late Night: 11PM-1AM

CNN — 1.631M / 847K

FNC — 937K / 309K

MSNBC — 559K / 283K

Primetime: 8-11PM

CNN — 2.534M / 1.198M

FNC — 1.609M / 423K

MSNBC — 714K / 340K

Full Block: 8PM-1AM

CNN — 2.173M Total Viewers / 1.058M A25-54

FNC — 1.340M / 377K

MSNBC — 652K / 317K

We will have all of the numbers in the Saturday Scoreboard tomorrow morning.

The numbers were comparable–though slightly down–from when the news broke of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009.

As for politics: coverage of the Maine caucus didn’t exactly light up the Nielsen boxes. From 6-8 PM ET, the heart of Maine Caucus coverage, Fox News handily topped CNN and MSNBC, drawing just over a million total viewers, and 216,000 adults 25-54. CNN drew 563,000 viewers, including 122,000 A25-54, while MSNBC, which is typically running “Lockup,” drew 200,000 viewers and 65,000 demo viewers for its caucus coverage.

All three networks were down from the previous Saturday in that time period, which saw coverage of the Nevada caucus. Compared to Saturday, January 28, when there was no caucus or primary coverage, FNC was flat in total viewers, while CNN and MSNBC were down in total viewers.