TV Ratings: CNN Keeps Boost Amid Criticism, Fox Maintains Lead in Boston Coverage

The cable news networks continue to see surges in viewership, with audiences up between 37 percent and 194 percent compared with the previous week.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick at a press conference

A week's worth of wall-to-wall coverage since Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon has seen the cable news' networks numbers swell and fluctuate quite a bit, but heading into the weekend, there are two key lessons: A much-improved CNN continues to benefit from the breaking news, and Fox News Channel's dominance remains unchallenged.

Between Monday and Thursday, FNC averaged 2.78 million viewers in primetime (682,000 of them adults 25-to-54). CNN, which saw harsh criticism for its handling of the story, was a distant second in total viewers with 1.62 million but much closer in the 25-to-54 demo (674,000). MSNBC, still growing from the previous week, came in a much-less-competitive position, averaging 975,000 viewers and 333,000 in the demographic.

PHOTOS: Inside the Boston Bombing Manhunt

The rankings held the same in total-day averages. FNC's 1.65 million viewers (421,000 adults 25-to-54) topped CNN's 1.05 million viewers (403,000 adults 25-to-54), and MSNBC averaged 515,000 viewers and just 162,000 adults in the key demographic. Week-to-week, CNN saw the biggest jump in viewership of the three, moving from its perennial third-place status up to second. The network was up 194 percent compared with FNC's 48 percent and MSNBC's 37 percent.

Ratings were highest for all networks on the day of the attack, with primetime numbers swelling well above the hours immediately after news of the bombing broke. A similar boost likely will be seen when Friday numbers are available on Monday. The death of one suspect in the late hours of Thursday night and the ensuing manhunt for the other caused all three networks to break from regular programming during the day.

And as for that late-night coverage, which saw a shootout and explosions in Watertown, Mass., take place while much of the East Coast was sleeping, cable networks started covering the story live shortly after 1 a.m. EDT. Full overnight ratings won't arrive until Monday, but early numbers have CNN eclipsing FNC in the first hour of coverage.