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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

CNN Asks Florida Judge to Toss Out Donald Trump’s Defamation Suit

Trump filed the lawsuit against CNN because he accuses the network of defaming his character during the 2020 Presidential Election.

Eduardo Razo

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Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN in October; now, over a month later, the cable news channel is asking a judge in Florida to toss the case (h/t The Hill).

Trump filed the lawsuit against CNN because he accuses the network of defaming his character during the 2020 Presidential Election. Trump’s attorneys argued CNN “has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source.”

Additionally, Trump’s lawyer says that CNN attempted “to defame the Plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically, culminating in CNN claiming credit for ‘[getting] Trump out’ in the 2020 presidential election.”

CNN lawyers have pushed back against Trump’s claims saying that the former president “seeks to silence any criticism of Plaintiff’s debunked claim that the 2020 presidential election was ‘stolen.’”

“Any alleged association resulting therefrom are also ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ and ‘pure opinion’ under well-established principles of defamation law,” CNN’s lawyers added.

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News Television

Investor Cautions Over Possible Fox-News Corp. Merger

Irenic Capital, which owns about 2 percent of News Corp., has taken issue with its potential merger between Fox and News Corp.

Eduardo Razo

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Rumors have swirled over Fox and News Corp. possibly merging into one entity, but Irenic Capital, which owns about 2% of News Corp., has taken issue with its potential merger.

A merger would produce a more complicated company and turn off investors rather than increase the company’s lagging stock price, Irenic Capital stated in a letter to the News Corp. board.

“And even if such synergies do exist today, they would principally benefit Fox and reside in the News Media segment of News Corp,” Irenic Capital said (h/t Deadline). “For example, Fox Business may benefit from greater integration with The Wall Street Journal and some of Dow Jones’ other properties, but it is highly debatable whether the benefits from such an association flow both ways.

“Combining News Corp with Fox will result in a combined company that is obviously more complex than both companies left separate.” 

Irenic believes a unification would aid Fox far better than News Corp. and cautioned that the board has a fiduciary responsibility to investigate all possible routes to develop value beyond the one suggested by its primary shareholder.

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News Television

Fox News Lights All-American Christmas Tree

The event was hosted by Greg Gutfeld, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Dana Perino, Jessica Tarlov and Jesse Watters

Ryan Hedrick

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Fox News held its annual All-American Tree Lighting at FOX Square in New York, New York Monday during “The Five.” The event was hosted by Greg Gutfeld, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Dana Perino, Jessica Tarlov and Jesse Watters

In a release, the network said it partnered with the Police Athletic League (PAL) to host a toy drive benefiting New York City’s youth. The network also honored first responders by selecting representatives of the FDNY and NYPD to light this year’s tree.

Guests included FOX News personalities and their families along with first responders from the NYPD and FDNY, including members of NYPD Precinct 32, who lost Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera this year, and members of EMS Station 49, who lost EMS captain Alison Russo earlier this year.

FOX’s All-American Christmas tree stands at 50 feet tall and is adorned by 12,000 ornaments and 340,000 lights. The tree has 500 branches, a star topper that is over six feet tall and more than four miles of cord wrapped throughout.  Made in America, the tree features a patriotic theme of red, white, and blue decorations.

“After a busy year in America, it’s nice to, let’s just take a step back and celebrate traditions like this and remember how important it is to come together and focus on what truly matters,” said co-host Dana Perino. “This tree is not just for us to enjoy. We want you watching at home to be able to come here and make Christmas memories with your family and friends and of course, your pets, too, of course, as you can imagine.”

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