Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fitting, Indeed

This blurb from the Drudge Report speaks volumes about the current state of mainstream (read: liberal) cable news:

"MSNBC, CNN Beaten by Cartoon Network in Ratings Game."

And, the linked item from TV Newser provides the bloody details. In the primetime ratings last week, MSNBC was #26 among the various cable channels, while CNN was in 32nd place and Headline News finished in 37th. Where was Fox News Channel? In second place overall, only 232,000 viewers behind USA, which is typically the highest-rated cable outlet.

That's nothing short of phenomenal. After all, FNC is a news outlet, while USA is an entertainment channel. Conventional wisdom says news and information aren't supposed to finish at the top of the cable ratings, no matter how they report the news. But then again, Fox has been demolishing the status quo--and its rivals--for almost a decade.

Here are a couple of sports analogies that illustrate Fox's dominance in cable news. Their current lead over MSNBC and CNN (combined) is the equivalent of a college basketball team blowing through the NCAA tournament and winning every game by at least 40 points. Or, if you prefer NASCAR, FNC is running three or four laps ahead of the competition.

Still, there might be a bit of inspiration in the latest ratings results for MSNBC and CNN. Perhaps they should take a cue from Cartoon Network and animate their line-up. And, while they're at it, the news channel also-rans could change the focus of their websites from information to on-line video games (works pretty well for Cartoon Network).

Indeed, some of the current hosts on CNN and MSNBC are a natural fit for animation and spin-off video games. MSNBC, for example, could offer an Ed Schultz arcade where players feed him liberal talking points until he explodes. Meanwhile, CNN might install a "Negative IQ" game featuring "Situation Room" anchor Wolf Blitzer. Inspired by Wolf's embarrassing performance on "Celebrity Jeopardy," players would ask the animated host general knowledge questions, which he can't answer. As cartoon Wolf misses more questions, his IQ drops a few more points. Lowest score wins--or gets you an early evening slot on CNN.

Being ranked #26 or #32 in the cable wars is nothing to be proud of. That's why we're convinced that animation may be the only gimmick that can save MSNBC and CNN. With their slavish endorsement of Barack Obama (and his agenda), it's clear that the folks at both networks live in an reality-starved universe not unlike Bikini Bottom or Endsville. In that world, it's not much of a jump from Captain K'nuckles to Keith Olbermann.


J.R. said...

"After all, FNC is a news outlet..."

I dispute your assertion on its face. Fox News gets its high ratings because it is entertainment. The top-rated shows on FNC are political opinion (read: entertainment) shows, not News, where viewers tune in to hear political views with which they agree restated in an entertaining manner.

You've put the cart before the Coulter.

Unknown said...

Disagree...Fox is first and foremost a news outlet. Even when you take away the opinion shows, FNC still airs at least 10 hours of news on weekdays, slightly less on the weekends. And BTW, the totals are similar for CNN and MSNBC. Following the lead of Fox, everyone has "opinion" shows in prime time, with more conventional newscasts airing earlier in the day.

Additionally, Fox attracts a surprising number of viewers who define themselves as liberals and Democrats. You don't generate the audience that FNC has in prime time with just conservatives tuning in.

I will agree with you on one point: Fox succeeds (in large part) because they know how to produce compelling TV. "Never be dull" is rule #1 at FNC. Rule #2 is "Whenever possible, the news should be presented by an attractive woman, preferably blonde."

Paul G. said...

Spook: During primetime people watch FNC for entertainment. You can't extrapolate those ratings and then say it's a great news channel.

Fox's primetime lineup (according to their website) consists of: 2 O'Reilly Reports, Glen Beck, and Sean Hannity with an hour or two more of commentated news thrown in. I would agree that Fox does better entertainment than CNN or MSNBC.

Great example, tonight on O'Reilly you can watch, "A Girl Scouts shocker! Famous for selling cookies, you won't believe what they're accused of offering now!" I wouldn't take O'Reilly's show topic and hold that up as the example of why FNC is so good at news. Would you?

Ed Rasimus said...

Interesting comments. The first rule of liberal discourse is deny or demean the obvious, then stress your talking points repeatedly regardless of what the question might be.

Undeniably O'Reilly, Hannity, Van Susteren, Coulter, Beck are entertainment. Good entertainment usually, if a bit shrill yet still entertainment.

But to deny that Fox offers substantial and relevant news is to deny the obvious.

Bret Baier's Special Report and the panel discussions may be the most "fair and balanced" commentary on any channel. Chris Matthews Sunday show is classic. And the Fox & Friends morning show, America's Newsroom during the day and Cavuto are excellent and usually balanced reporting.

I'll confess that I can take or leave Shep Smith who is just way too frantic for me.

When the major media and the other cable news outlets let their spin get in the way of their coverage even the great unwashed will begin to notice.