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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

Rachel Maddow Details Demands to NBCUniversal During Contract Talks

It wasn’t “some sort of, like, hostile, heated negotiation with NBC,” Maddow said.

Eduardo Razo

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This year, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has transitioned from being a daily news host to a weekly timeslot on Mondays while she focuses on other projects as part of her new contract. 

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Maddow shed light on the behind the scene details that went into the discussions with NBCUniversal, resulting in a new contract that will see her stay with the company through the 2024 election and a reported $30 million per year salary. 

It wasn’t “some sort of, like, hostile, heated negotiation with NBC,” Maddow said. “What I asked for, and I realize it’s a really hard thing to ask for from a big corporate entity, is flexibility, fluidity, and forgiveness.”

“Like, I want us to handle this in a way that we don’t have to map every second of it. And I want my staff to all stay employed, and I want them to be able to shift between different types of projects, just as I am.”

Alex Wagner takes over for Maddow Tuesday through Friday, as her show debuts on Aug. 16 at 9 PM ET. 

“This is not a show where our hair is on fire, and we’re yelling past each other, and we’re creating these manufactured moments of tension,” MSNBC President Rashida Jones said regarding the show’s format under Wagner in a June interview with The New York Times

“I really want the takeaway from this show to be a better understanding of what’s happening in the world.”

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News Television

Mehdi Hasan: Alex Jones Gained Credibility from Republican Party

Mehdi Hasan slammed the Republican Party for giving Jones credibility rather than allowing the InfoWars host to be a conspiracy theorist on the internet

Eduardo Razo

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This past week, a jury handed down a verdict that InfoWars owner Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages in one of the host’s three lawsuits from Sandy Hook families. 

Following the verdict, MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan slammed the Republican Party for giving Jones credibility rather than allowing the InfoWars host to be a conspiracy theorist on the internet. 

“It’s worth noting that Alex Jones is not just the far-right fringe figure he should be,” Hasan said on Friday’s edition of “The Mehdi Hasan Show.”

“Because past guests on his program. Like Donald Trump and Congressman Matt Gaetz and more recent guests like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene have lent legitimacy to this conspiratorial far-right bloviator …”

Hasan added that these politicians appearing on Jones’ show gave him validation to a host “who peddles nonsense conspiracies about murdered children and Hillary Clinton being a demon and a so-called Jewish mafia controlling the world.”

“Alex Jones should have been rejected by Republican leaders and lawmakers, but instead, he was shamefully embraced,” Hasan concluded. 

Jones’ court appearances are not done as he has two more defamation trials pending, one in Austin and another in Connecticut. Furthermore, Jones told Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that anything more than $2 million would plunge the company. 

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News Television

Donald Trump Raising Funds to Sue CNN

The former president sent out a couple of emails titled “Let’s SUE CNN,” one of two fundraising emails sent out to his supporters on Friday.

Eduardo Razo

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Former President Donald Trump is attempting to sue CNN, but The Daily Beast reports that he’s asking his followers to send in money to “support” the legal action against the network. 

Trump has yet to file any legal documents that will see CNN on the receiving end of a defamation lawsuit. Instead, the former president sent out a couple of emails titled “Let’s SUE CNN,” one of two fundraising emails sent out to his supporters on Friday.

“I’m calling on my best and most dedicated supporters to add their names to stand with me in my impending LAWSUIT against Fake News CNN,” the email said. “Add your name IMMEDIATELY to show your support for my upcoming lawsuit against Fake News CNN.”

Afterward, a second email from Trump stated that the first 45 names to help would stand next to him as he stands against CNN. 

“I’m going to look over the names of the first 45 Patriots who added their names to publicly stand with their President AGAINST CNN,” the second email said. 

The former president threatened CNN with a lawsuit and sent the network’s General Counsel David Vigilante and top CNN executive Chris Licht a note titled, “Notice of Intent to Bring Civil Action for Defamation.”

“Without regard for President Trump’s genuine belief in his statements, CNN has published numerous articles characterizing him as a ‘liar’ and the purveyor of the ‘Big Lie,’” the Trump legal letter to CNN said.

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