There was no surprise in the cable news ratings for the third quarter as Fox continued to hold number one position and Time Warner’s (NYSE:TWX) CNN managed to beat Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) MSNBC in total day.  Fox has been comfortably holding the top slot for 47 consecutive quarters and 141 consecutive months, leaving CNN and MSNBC fighting for the second slot. CNN contributes close to 8% to Time Warner’s $67 estimated stock value. A new team with new programming has been trying to bring force into the network, which saw a viewership decline in the past few years due to a lack of opinion based programming.  It will be interesting to see if the new programming and correspondents can help CNN attract more viewers.
CNN Takes The Second Slot
Earlier in the second quarter this year, CNN reclaimed the runner-up slot from MSNBC for the first time since 2010, with a 50% jump in prime-time audience. The run has continued into the third quarter, with victory coming in the total day category. Interestingly, unlike Fox and MSNBC, which were down 11% and 27% respectively, CNN’s numbers were actually up over Q3 2012, with 9% gain in total viewers over last year. Anderson Cooper was the ratings leader for CNN, followed by Piers Morgan Live. The network’s morning show New Day continued to trail Fox’s Fox & Friends and MSNBC’s Morning Joe across the board. 
New Team To Bring More Original Programming
In January this year, Jeff Zucker took over as president of CNN Worldwide. Earlier, Jeff Zucker was with NBCUniversal, and is known for his nose for personality-driven news and bold programming choices. While CNN has seen ratings improve compared to the previous year, it is a rise from the bottom. Moreover, there were some big news events such as Boston Marathon bombings and the Jodi Arias murder trial, which helped the news channels in gaining viewership. In a continued effort to bring in more quality programs, CNN recently announced that Bill Weir is joining the network as an anchor and chief innovation correspondent.  He is the former anchor of ABC News’ Nightline and will work with producers to develop original programming across the schedule.
Why Programming Matters?
The network needs more original programming and opinion based shows to gain ratings. The network derives more than half of its revenues from subscription, which largely depends on the network’s ratings. CNN could gain its negotiating power if it continues to grow in ratings, which would mean higher demand. This, in turn, could help it in subscription fee growth. In addition to this, growth in ratings will translate into advertising revenue growth.
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- MSNBC Beats CNN In Q3 Primetime Ratings; CNN Wins Total Day, Huffington Post, Oct 1, 2013 [↩]
- Why CNN could use more angry talking heads, The Week, March 18 2013 [↩]
- Q3 2013 Cable News Ratings: Fox #1 Overall, MSNBC #2 in Primetime, CNN #2 in Total Day, Media ITE, Oct 2, 2013 [↩]
- Bill Weir Leaving ABC for CNN, The New York Times, Oct 11, 2013 [↩]