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Ferguson Coverage Drives CNN and Fox News Ratings as Curfew Lifts

Late-breaking dispatches from the Missouri town keep many viewers glued to cable news

Police Watch Ferguson Protests H - 2014
AP
Ferguson, Mo.

With no end in sight to the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, the late-hour activity (and frequent police clashes with journalists) has left many viewers glued to cable news over the last week.

Monday proved exceptionally strong for some cable news nets. Protests continued well into the night, and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's decision to lift the city-wide curfew and bring in the National Guard fueled an already roaring national interest in the continued aftermath of unarmed teenager Michael Brown's Aug. 9 shooting death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson.

CNN has seen the ratings uptick it's accustomed to with breaking news, driving big audiences in the targeted adults 25-54 demographic, and Fox News Channel has maintained a solid hold on total viewership. The only cable news net not seeing much of a spike is MSNBC, which has suffered particularly middling ratings as of late.

Leading the three-day average in primetime in the key demo, CNN was at its highest Monday night when 423,000 adults 25-54 tuned in to primetime. That edges past FNC's 405,000 for the same time period and is nearly triple its showing two Mondays ago. (Last Monday, Aug. 11, provides no reliable comparison, as all news broadcasts were inflated by coverage of actor Robin Williams' suicide.)

Though CNN's viewership (1.03 million) was also up significantly, it could not match FNC's 2.14 million viewers — that despite regular cable news champ Bill O'Reilly sitting out on Monday night (Eric Bolling filled in).

Languishing in third place in both measures was MSNBC. The network, coming off of a rough July, averaged 854,000 viewers and 194,000 in the key demo.

This news ratings race is not cable's alone, but the nightly news broadcasts rarely see the kind of fluctuation the Big Three get from breaking and ongoing coverage.

And the networks are aggressively responding to the call for coverage. Mounting interest has many sending more reporters out to the embattled town and extending coverage. FNC has already scheduled a live outing of Megyn Kelly's The Kelly File for midnight Tuesday to follow the latest events. And CNN's Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper all continue to report live from Ferguson.