Busy Month Generates Cable News Ratings

A very busy breaking news cycle in May turned into a ratings bonanza for most of cable’s news networks.

The deadly tornadoes in Moore, Okla.; the discovery of three kidnapped women in Cleveland; and the infamous Jody Arias murder trial propelled Fox News, CNN and HLN to double-digit primetime ratings increases during the period of April 29 to May 26, according to Nielsen.

Fox News averaged 1.9 million primetime viewers in May, a 16% increase from the same period last year, while CNN boosted its audience by a whopping 68% to 650,000 from 388,000 in May 2012, according to Nielsen. HLN, with its extensive coverage of the Arias trial — in which defendant Arias was eventually convicted of killing her ex-boyfriend — finished third among the news networks with 609,000 viewers, up 86% from a year ago.

MSNBC was the only major cable news network to suffer a decline for the month, falling 20% to 528,000 total viewers and dropping to fourth place, according to Nielsen.

Among the target 25-to-54 demo, CNN and HLN posted increases of 96% and 90%, respectively, while Fox News fell 6% during the month and MSNBC dropped 19%.

Overall, TNT slam-dunked the competition with its National Basketball Association playoff s coverage to top all cable networks in primetime, averaging a fl at 3.1 million viewers for the month, Nielsen said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.