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FOX News Leads Ratings Race in Vice Presidential Debate Week

It’s the second most-watched vice presidential debate in TV history, surpassing the previous runner-up mark of 56.7 million for George H.W. Bush-Geraldine Ferraro from 1984

Douglas Pucci

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The highly-charged political season (and news cycle) continues to deliver big audiences as nearly 58 million viewers in households tuned in to the Mike Pence-Kamala Harris vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 on the linear networks. It’s the second most-watched vice presidential debate in TV history, surpassing the previous runner-up mark of 56.7 million for George H.W. Bush-Geraldine Ferraro from 1984; the all-time record was 69.6 million for Joe Biden-Sarah Palin in 2008. Pence-Harris drew an audience 55 percent larger than Pence’s first veep debate in 2016 (37.2 million) versus Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine.

Fox News Channel, projected to lead all cable networks in average total viewers for the week ending Oct. 11, was the debate’s top outlet with 11.5 million viewers. CNN was runner-up on cable with 7.4 million viewers; MSNBC (6.7 million) close behind. 

ABC led the broadcast networks in debate coverage with 9.5 million viewers, followed by NBC (6.5 million), CBS (5.2 million), and the Fox broadcast network (4.1 million).

Telemundo (1.10 million) bested Univision (1.03 million) among the Spanish-language outlets.

The biggest breaking news story from last week (Sep. 28-Oct. 4) occurred in the overnight of Thursday, Oct. 2 when Donald Trump and his wife Melania admitted they had tested positive for the coronavirus. From the moment the news broke (at about 1 a.m. ET on late Oct. 1/early Oct. 2) until 6 a.m. ET Oct. 2, ratings for the three cable news outlets rose considerably from the same time period one week earlier (late Sep. 24/early Sep. 25, 2020) — of course, those networks regularly air reruns of their prime time programs during the overnight:

  • CNN: 1.18 million viewers (+129%); 308,000 adults 25-54 (+148%)
  • MSNBC: 974,000 viewers (+94%); 214,000 adults 25-54 (+152%)
  • Fox News Channel: 947,000 viewers (+28%); 213,000 adults 25-54 (+16%)

Cable news was a continued attraction throughout the day on Friday, Oct. 2 as word came that several more prominent officials who had attended the Sep. 26th Rose Garden ceremony at the White House announcing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court had also tested positive for COVID-19. The most notable ratings were for prime time (8-11 p.m.) where Fox News, CNN and MSNBC combined for 10.78 million viewers and 2.27 million adults 25-54 — increases of 46 percent and 81 percent, respectively, from Sep. 25 prime time; up 30 percent and 42 percent, respectively, from the special Sep. 18 prime time that featured the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s sudden passing.

A combined 11.71 million tuned in to cable news from 9-10 p.m. ET: Fox News’ “Hannity” (4.44 million), MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” (4.12 million) and CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” (3.15 million); this topped the combined three most-watched broadcast network telecasts (11.04 million) within that same hour: ABC’s NBA Finals Game 2: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat (5.9 million from 9-10 p.m.), CBS’ “Undercover Boss” season premiere (3.07 million) and Fox’s “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” (2.06 million from 9-10 p.m.)

CNBC saw a 23 percent jump in total viewers from the previous Friday (279,000 on Oct. 2 6 a.m.-8 p.m. vs. 228,000 on Sep. 25 6 a.m.-7 p.m.) as stocks took a brief but significant dip that day due to Trump’s COVID-19 announcement. On a related note, former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith’s new nightly CNBC program “The News” (in the 7-8 p.m. hour) debuted on Sep. 30 to 373,000 viewers. It posted 321,000 viewers on Oct. 1; 331,000 in Oct. 2 — all things considered, “The News with Shepard Smith” is an immediate modest success for the business network based on its aforementioned average viewer figures.

For the week ending Oct. 4, 2020 in total day data (from 6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. each day), Fox News Channel led the cable news networks in viewers (2.3 million) and adults 25-54 (456,000).

CNN moved in to the runner-up position during the historic news week in both key figures — 1.59 million viewers; 425,000 adults 25-54 (more than doubling its demo output from last week)

MSNBC rose about 50 percent from last week in both key figures: 1.57 million viewers; 279,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs in total viewers:

1. Presidential Debate (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:03 PM, 96 min.) 17.812 million viewers

2. Presidential Debate Coverage (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 8:50 PM, 13 min.) 12.918 million viewers

3. Presidential Debate/Analysis (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:39 PM, 21 min.) 12.548 million viewers

4. 1st Presidential Debate (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:04 PM, 95 min.) 8.287 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 8:00 PM, 50 min.) 8.266 million viewers

6. Debate Night In America (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:39 PM, 21 min.) 8.085 million viewers

7. Debate (MSNBC, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:03 PM, 97 min.) 7.189 million viewers

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 7.139 million viewers

9. MSNBC Debate Analysis (MSNBC, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:40 PM, 20 min.) 6.954 million viewers

10. Debate Night In America (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 6.731 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs among adults 25-54:

1. Presidential Debate (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:03 PM, 96 min.) 5.308 million adults 25-54

2. Presidential Debate/Analysis (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:39 PM, 21 min.) 3.776 million adults 25-54

3. Presidential Debate Coverage (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 8:50 PM, 13 min.) 3.547 million adults 25-54

4. 1st Presidential Debate (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:04 PM, 95 min.) 3.524 million adults 25-54

5. Debate Night In America (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:39 PM, 21 min.) 3.231 million adults 25-54

6. Debate Night In America (CNN, Tue. 9/29/2020 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.511 million adults 25-54

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 8:00 PM, 50 min.) 2.121 million adults 25-54

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 9/29/2020 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.994 million adults 25-54

9. Debate (MSNBC, Tue. 9/29/2020 9:03 PM, 97 min.) 1.726 million adults 25-54

10. MSNBC Debate Analysis (MSNBC, Tue. 9/29/2020 10:40 PM, 20 min.) 1.654 million adults 25-54

News Television

Kim Godwin: “Newscasts at Some Point Will Be Totally Streamed”

Godwin sat down with Recode host and Vox journalist Peter Kafka at the Collison Conference in Toronto.

Eduardo Razo

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ABC News president Kim Godwin has been in her position for more than a year and she recently sat down with Recode host and Vox journalist Peter Kafka at the Collison Conference in Toronto, where they discussed the future of news media. 

With streaming both on the audio and visual side, becoming more of a player for news and how they reach the younger audience, Godwin says that getting to the demographic is via a digital strategy. 

“The price of admission is that digital strategy. That push alert – getting to people early,” said Godwin, per TV Newser. “And then we have people who really are in tune with the way people are consuming news.”

“You really have to niche it out. You can’t put a TikTok on Facebook…. You have to approach it with a multi-faceted and multi-pronged approach and try to get there first.”

Furthermore, Godwin wants the network to lean on their brand on various platforms that are skewered to the young generation, like TikTok. 

“ABC News is a strong news brand in America. So we are leveraging that brand on TikTok. [ABC News foreign correspondent] Ian Pannell who is covering the war in Ukraine right from the frontlines,” Godwin said.

“In addition to the reports he’s sending back for World News Tonight and Good Morning America, he’s doing TikToks. And they’re interesting, different and customized for that audience. As journalists, we are looking at our coverage in a different way.”

Godwin was then asked how she plans to get the younger crowd to turn on ABC News, where they make their money, but she says news could be heading toward being streamed rather than having the more youth turn on ABC. 

“I think there is going to be a business for us there one day (on TikTok),” said Godwin. “That’s where all the bridges are leading. Everything is getting smaller on linear, but maybe the newscasts at some point will be totally streamed, like ABC News Live,” Godwin concluded. 

“Maybe that’s where World News Tonight and GMA will eventually be. I really think we are headed that way, all the numbers show that… Maybe they meet in the middle somewhere eventually.”

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News Television

Dan Abrams: Someone in Donald Trump’s Inner Circle Could See Charges

“For the first time, I think there’s a real possibility a member of Donald Trump’s inner circle could face criminal charges related to Jan. 6,” Abrams said on Thursday’s edition of “Dan Abrams Live.”

Eduardo Razo

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The hearings into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol remain ongoing, and following the raid on former Trump Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark this week, anchor Dan Abrams has a bold belief. 

Abrams, the founder of Mediaite and anchor on NewsNation, considers that for the first time, someone from former President Donald Trump’s inner circle could see criminal charges.

“For the first time, I think there’s a real possibility a member of Donald Trump’s inner circle could face criminal charges related to Jan. 6,” Abrams said on Thursday’s edition of “Dan Abrams Live.”

“It’s generally seemed to me that the criminal inquiry into Trump and his inner circle in connection with Jan. 6 wasn’t going anywhere. I’m talking about what I actually think is happening, that’s all.”

Abrams stated the latest hearing and the Wednesday raid on Clark are what altered his view on whether anyone could end up seeing charges.

“What we learned today changed my analysis. That’s because federal investigators just raided the home of former trump department of justice lawyer Jeffrey Clark,” Abrams added. 

“He was the guy heading the justice department’s environmental division who Donald Trump tried to put in as acting attorney general could see was apparently the only one within the DOJ willing to support the effort to overturn the 2020 election.”

Finally, Abrams conveyed that the raid’s timing before the hearing could examine Clark’s role could lead to something significant when facing jail time.  

“To get authorization to raid his home now, the day before the Jan. 6 committee held a hearing examining Jeffrey Clark’s role in trying to overturn the election, suggest to me that they believe they suddenly could have something big,” Abrams concluded. 

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News Television

NBC News’ Joe Fryer Receives NLGJA’s Journalist of the Year

The award is presented by The Association of LGBTQ Journalists

Eduardo Razo

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NBC News Now morning anchor Joe Fryer has received a significant honor as he was named NLGJA’s Journalist of the Year. 

The award is presented by The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, which honors “an LGBTQ journalist whose exceptional abilities, integrity, and distinctive work brought honor to the profession within the past year.”

“Humbled & honored to be named “Journalist of the Year” by the NLGJA — an organization that’s so important to the LGBTQ community. I share the award w/ my many colleagues at NBC NewsNow, TODAY show, & NBCNews who’ve helped me tell these stories,” Fryer tweeted

Fryer joined NBC News in 2013 as a West Coast correspondent, following a stint as a special projects reporter for Seattle NBC affiliate KING. The NBC News anchor wasn’t the only network newser to win an NLGJA award. 

CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas and the 48 Hours team won the Excellence in Network Television Award for the 48 Hours story The Life and Death of Nikki Kuhnhausen.

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