CNN Falls Behind MSNBC in Annual Prime-Time Ratings

By Andrew Gauthier 

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The New York Times

CNN will finish 2009 behind MSNBC in prime-time ratings, the first time CNN has ever trailed a competitor other than the Fox News Channel over a full calendar year.

That finish had been expected. In recent months, CNN, which continues to stand behind its policy of steering clear of the opinion-based shows that draw large prime-time audiences for its competitors, has also trailed its own sister network, HLN (formerly Headline News). CNN has frequently finished fourth in the news channel category.

CNN will finish the fourth quarter of 2009 in fourth place–another first–and with two weeks left has been fourth on more than 100 nights this year.

But the end-of-the-year ratings for the news networks–which were being presented this week because nothing is likely to change by Jan. 1–are bringing some other, less expected, results. One is the ability of Fox News, which had the biggest ratings year in its history, to grow even against the heavily viewed election year of 2008. More…