When Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel back in 1996, no one gave it much of a chance. The smart money was on MSNBC, the supposedly ground-breaking venture between the Micrsoft and NBC News.
Twelve years later, we know what happened. FNC has become a cable ratings juggernaut, while MSNBC battles CNN for also-ran status. If you need any proof, just look at the latest Nielsen numbers. During April, Fox News beat its two rivals, not just in prime time, but during every broadcast hour from 6 am to midnight.
And, adding insult to injury (if you're an exec at Time-Warner or NBC Universal), FNC topped CNN and MSNBC combined, in total viewership and the all-important 25-54 demographic group. Did someone say domination?
Here's another telling statistic, one you won't find in the media coverage of The New York Times. Everyone knows that Fox's evening line-up trounces the competition, but some of the network's daytime programs beat the prime time offerings of CNN and MSNBC. Keith Olberman's audience, for example, is about that of "Happening Now," FNC's midday news show that airs from 11 am to 1 pm, eastern time.
"Happening Now," is anchored by Jon Scott and Jane Skinner who are very talented broadcasters. But neither Mr. Scott nor Ms. Skinner have been hailed as cable news stars, or received the fawning coverage lavished on Olberman. In fact, the ratings "surge" of the MSNBC host has been largely the result of CNN's night-time implosion. Building a line-up around such "talents" as Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper is pure ratings poison.
Heh, heh, heh. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. But, as the audience numbers for CNN and MSNBC approach those of the Do-it-Yourself network, one thing is certain. Members of the MSM will keep ridiculing Fox--and its viewers--while putting the best possible spin on the fading fortunes of MSNBC and CNN.