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It may not have started out that way, but 2012 ended up being a stronger year for most of the cable news networks.
Fox News Channel led the pack for the 11th consecutive year, according to Nielsen. No doubt driven by interest in presidential election, the network was up 11 percent in primetime to a nightly average of 2.07 million viewers. In the all-important adults 25-54 demographic, FNC was up just one percent to 431,000 viewers.
MSNBC saw big boosts in both total viewers (913,000) and adults 25-54 (290,000), rising a respective 18 and 20 percent. The growth and several nightly wins during the election still have it ranking a distant second to FNC.
As for CNN, record lows from earlier in the year were more or less compensated for by election night and the debate cycle, both of which brought several atypical wins. Still, the network was the only one to report losses: falling three percent in total primetime viewers (670,000) and one percent in the key demo (219,000).
Despite the year-to-year growth for FNC and MSNBC, all three nets were down from their showings during the 2008 election — though viewership tends to lag during years with an incumbent president.
FNC maintained its lead (and growth) in total day viewership. It rose eight percent to 1.158 million viewers and one percent to 276,000 in the demo. MSNBC was up 15 percent to 498,000 viewers and 12 percent to 166,000 with adults 25-54. CNN, delivering its biggest losses during the total day, averaged 408,000 viewers (down 15 percent) and 131,000 in the demo (down 18 percent).
Standout shows include MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who saw her highest-ever scores in total viewers and the demo, and FNC’s Fox and Friends and Red Eye, both of which saw new highs in total viewers.
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