As the dramatic story of America’s capture and killing of Osama bin Laden began to reach the country, viewers tuned to CNN. According to Nielsen, CNN averaged 961,000 viewers 25-54, ahead of Fox’s 895,000. MSNBC, which usually does not do live news coverage on weekends, was a distant third with 485,000. Among total viewers, CNN had 2,329,000–just ahead of Fox’s 2,317,000.
The ten o’clock hour represented a 7 percent margin of victory for CNN, which traditionally performs well on hard news stories. That margin jumped dramatically in the 11 p.m. hour, to an 89 percent margin over Fox among viewers 25-54, and a 247 percent margin over MSNBC.
In the hour from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m., when the president spoke and reaction began, CNN (according to the early overnight data) had an average of 3,904,000 in the demo, compared to Fox’s 2,070,000 and MSNBC’s 1,126,000. Among total viewers, the margins were only slightly smaller, with CNN in front (7,763,000) compared to Fox (4,778,000) and MSNBC (2,275,000)
For the entire period of bin Laden coverage (10 p.m. ET to 3 a.m. ET) CNN averaged 2,101,000 in the demo, ahead of Fox (1,267,000) and MSNBC (800,000). CNN was first–in total viewers and in the demo–for each of the hours, a rare sweep of Fox News, which traditionally holds an iron grip on first place.
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