Fox News Q1 Ratings: Sometimes Down Is Up, Relatively Speaking

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.54.21 AMThis is our third post using a different approach to interpret the Q1 2015 cable news ratings. In order to compensate for mid and long term variables in viewing trends we made the focus how the individual programs are faring relative to each other. This will tell us who, within the cable news marketplace, is up vs. the competition, and who is down. By comparing the rank each show holds in the list of cable news programs (totaling 113 including the business channels) with where they stood one year ago, you can see who moved up the list (+), who moved down (-), and who held steady. Anyone who moved up in the current viewing environment (an overall decline in cable news viewership) should be in good shape, while the biggest losers have reason to be concerned.

Things at Fox News aren’t that much different from a year ago. They dominate the ratings, crushing the opposition:

  • +3 The O’Reilly Factor (repeat) (#7)
  • +3 Outnumbered (vs. Happening Now) (#11)
  • +2 America’s Newsroom (#9)
  • +2 Your World w/ Cavuto (#14)
  • +2 Shepard Smith Reporting (#16)
  • +1 The Kelly File (#2)
  • +1 Happening Now (#13)
  • +1 The Real Story w/ Gretchen Carlson (#18)
  • = The O’Reilly Factor (#1)
  • = Special Report w/ Bret Baier (#4)
  • = On the Record (#5)
  • = Hannity (#6)
  • -1 The Five (#3)
  • -3 Fox & Friends (#10)
  • -12 Red Eye (#33)
  • -16 Fox & Friends First (#36)

The backlash to the war of words over O’Reilly not only widened The Factor‘s lead over all other cable news programs, it also lifted the 11:00 pm repeat by three slots—the most improvement of any FNC program. Clearly Outnumbered has founds its legs (see what I did there?) and while the numbers are about the same as last year’s Happening Now, in the smaller 2015 pool of viewers that’s good enough to move up three slots.

Greta and all of prime time bucked the overall trend and gained in the 25-54 news demo; most of the rest lost viewers. But as our relativity index demonstrates, even as the raw numbers fell these shows actually improved their standings. In a world where most everyone shed viewers, those who limit their losses will rise compared to the rest: down can be up. Even chronic soft spots in the FNC line-up like Gretchen and Shep managed to climb the charts–not with a bullet, to be sure, but better than the alternative.

Among those without the bouyancy to stay afloat, The Five may have been affected by the rotating substitutes filling in for Bob Beckel, whose lengthy (and somewhat mysterious) absence has altered the team chemistry. Red Eye fans will regale anyone willing to listen with their reasons for why that show has been faltering—even before the uneven string of guests hosts took over. Early mornings should be a concern: the Fox & Friends slippage is worth noting, and there have been no cast changes to explain it away. Even more striking is the decline of Fox & Friends First, which outranked Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer just one year ago, but now trails Chris Hayes. It’s on a little early for me, so I can’t answer the question “What went wrong?” Can you?

Our thanks to TV Newser for the 2014 and 2015 25-54 Q1 data.

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