Successful programming is vital to a television property since it spells the difference between profit and loss. Unpopular programming results in fewer viewers, an insufficient number of advertisers buying airtime, and eventually economic failure.

CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC are three all-news channels fighting for an ever-decreasing slice of the ratings pie. The networks have both similarities and differences, but before discussing them it is vital to look at both their history and programming. When Ted Turner created the Cable News Network in June of 1980, he probably never dreamed that it would become one of the most recognized names in cable programming (Eastman and Ferguson, 1997). CNN?s first broadcast was June 1, 1980. Initially the signal was seen in 1.7 million U.S. households. Turner established news bureaus in major American cities and in other cities throughout the world and today CNN is seen in 80 million U.S. cable households (Available: Much of CNN?s success is rooted in its early application of newsgathering technology, most notably that of communications satellites and portable uplinks such as those that gave the world video and audio during the Persian Gulf War and the aborted coup in the former Soviet Union (Eastman and Ferguson, 1997). MSNBC, which got its start on July 15, 1996, was a groundbreaking venture from Microsoft and NBC, comprising MSNBC cable and MSNBC on the internet. The network premiered to 22 million households, reaches 45 million to date, and is expected to reach 61 million households by the end of the year 2000 (B.P. Anderer, personal conversation, December 7, 1998). The network was able to reach so many households so quickly because it took the distribution platform of the NBC owned, America?s Talking (Eastman and Ferguson, 1997).

The FoxNews Channel was the last of the three to enter the all-news cable battle, on October 7, 1996. Its first months of programming were only available to 10 million households despite the fact that owner, Rupert Murdoch paid cable operators $10 per subscriber to carry the all-news channel (Conner 1996). This is because Time Warner Cable refused to put the network on its New York City cable system. (CNN owner Ted Turner is the chairman of Time Warner.) Murdoch filed a lawsuit, but on July 23, 1997 the suit was settled, giving the FNC immediate access to the MSO?s 1.1 million New York City subscriber system, plus wider distribution over time to the majority of Time Warner?s customers (Higgins and Petrozzello, 1997). The network now reaches nearly 35 million households. Its programming is balanced, aimed at views slightly older than the early-20?s audience courted by MSNBC (Conner, 1996).CNN Monday-Friday6a.m. Business Day. Hosted by Deborah Marchini and John Defterios, the show offers viewers live reports on market movements and business developments. Business and finance coverage is rounded out with weather updates, sports news, a travel advisory and the latest headlines.7a.m. Early edition. Hosted by Leon Harris and Carol Lin. A complete presentation of the latest news developments, including sports, weather and business news updates. In addition to news, the show airs a live newsmaker interview each hour. 9a.m. CNN Morning News. Hosted by Daryn Kagen and Bill Hemmer. This complete news show offers blocks of news reports, reviews, interviews and viewer call-ins. Many of the interviews are ?how to? in nature and cover a variety of subjects.11:30a.m. CNN and Company. Hosted by Mary Tillotson. A half-hour news-talk program that looks at today’s issues from a woman?s point of view. Each day the show consists of three panelists that hold different beliefs.12 p.m. Newsday. Hosted by Frank Sesno and Jeanne Meserve. Based in Washington D.C., this half-hour show is a presentation of the latest news of the day with plenty of live coverage.12:30p.m. Burden of Proof. Hosted by Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossak. This show, which was born during the O.J. Simpson trial, now investigates all facets of the judicial system. Key trial figures debate the legal ramifications of top news stories and courtroom issues.1p.m. CNN Today. Hosted by Natalie Allen and Lou Waters. A contemporary news and features program that reports the latest news from the medical industry, style and fashion, trends in nutrition and cuisine, and travel and vacationing tips.2:30p.m. Showbiz Today. Hosted by Laurin Sydney and Jim Moret. This program brings viewers special reports and live coverage of award ceremonies, movie openings and premier parties.4p.m. CNN Today. A shortened edition of the 1pm. program featuring the same hosts.

5p.m. Inside Politics. Hosted by Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff. From public issues to private discussions, the show gives viewers a daily look at the political events that shape the world.6p.m. World View. Hosted by Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff and Hillary Bowker. London anchor Hillary Bowker joins the hosts of CNN Today to offer viewers a signature global evening newscast that provides news from around the world.6:30p.m. Moneyline News-Hour with Lou Dobbs. Recently renamed and revamped to accommodate viewers who want a combination of financial news along with other significant news of the day.7:30p.m. Crossfire. Hosted by Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak and Bill Press. One of CNN?s most highly rated shows, it features lively debate and thought provoking discussion of current issues by some of the foremost proponents of conservative and liberal viewpoints.8p.m. World Today. Hosted by Joie Chen and Martin Savidge. This evening newscast provides viewers with a comprehensive look at the events that are shaping the world. News updates, features, weather and sports complete the show.9p.m. Larry King. Host Larry King combines topical discussions featuring the day?s major newsmakers with celebrity interviews, highlighted by viewer call-ins from around the world.10p.m. NewsStand. Hosted by Bernard Shaw, Willow Bay, Stephen Frazier and Judd Rose. This nightly magazine goes beyond breaking news to give viewers the information they need to understand today?s issues.Similarities and Differences 611p.m. Sports Tonight. Hosted by Fred Hickman and Vince Cellini. Produced by CNN/SI, the 24-hour sports news network from CNN and Sports Illustrated, the show provides up-to-date scores and highlights along with an in-depth look at the latest issues of sports. Between Midnight and 3a.m., CNN replays its prime-time lineup. This strategy is for viewers on the west coast, as well as for those who may be coming home from a second shift. At 3a.m. a repeat of Showbiz is shown. At 4:30 a.m. they broadcast CNN International until they resume live programming again at 6am.FoxNews Monday-Friday7a.m. Fox and Friends. Hosted by Louis Aguirre, E.D. Donahay, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade. This morning show highlights the latest news, weather, sports and entertainment, with a casual, spontaneous discourse. ?Around the watercooler?, the shows signature segment, consists of live chat about the lighter news stories of the day.9a.m.-5p.m. Fox News Now. Hosted by Uma Pemmaraju, David Asman, Rick Folbaum, John Scott, E.D. Donahey, Louis Aguirre, Lauren Green and Allison Costarene. Every hour from 9a.m. to 5p.m. FNC presents Fox News Now, a hard news format, concentrating on more news and less talk. Interviews with key newsmakers, plus expert analysis of daily events comprise the coverage of the day?s top news stories. Updates are provided 10 minutes before each hour. 5p.m. Cavuto Business Report. Hosted by Neil Cavuto. This hour-long business program offers practical, useable information on the latest activities from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Cavuto keeps track of market activities and interviews people in the business world.6p.m. Special Report with Brit Hume. Washington news veteran, Brit Hume plays host to newsmakers, political pundits and FoxNews contributors. It examines the inner workings of government issues such as welfare and taxes as well as the political scandal du jour.8p.m. The O?Reilly Factor. Hosted by Bill O?Reilly. The fastest growing news program on television. O?Reilly analyzes news events, trends, and celebrities with a direct, non-politically correct style that allows him to give his own opinion while insisting on answers to important questions from guests. The broadcast ends each night with a lively mail segment where viewers get a chance to voice what they like and don?t like about the program.9p.m. Hannity and Colmes. Hosted by Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes. A fast paced show featuring conservative radio commentator Sean Hannity and liberal personality Alan Colmes. The two offer their take on controversial topics, personalities and social issues in an often animated, always-compelling debate.10p.m. The Crier Report. Hosted by Catherine Crier. This program offers compelling, sometimes intimate interviews with a diverse range of guests. At 11p.m. FoxNews begins to repeat its programming until 7a.m. when they resume with live programming.

MSNBC Monday-Friday6a.m. Imus on MSNBC. Hosted by Don Imus. Radio personality Don Imus and his popular, often controversial radio show, Imus in the Morning, features current-events discussion, political humor and satire with a who?s who lineup of political figures, journalists and high profile newsmakers.9a.m. Watch it with Laura Ingrahm. Hosted by Laura Ingrahm. Live from Washington D.C., the show features special in studio guests from the business, political and entertainment fields, along with regular guests from diverse backgrounds. The show blends informative discussion with humor with an innovative look at the issues.10a.m. Morning Line. Hosted by Chris Jansing and John Seigenthaler.The show provides viewers with the top news of the morning, including sports and weather, along with interviews and features and a look ahead to the big stories of the day.12p.m. NBC News In America. Hosted by Linda Vester and Lori Stokes. An in-depth look at domestic and international news and its impact on American lives. The show features live interviews from the worldwide news bureaus, NBC affiliates and the MSNBC newsroom.3p.m. NBCNEWS@ISSUE. Hosted by Eddie Magnus. A daily hour long special devoted to a single news topic ranging from social to political to personal and professional issues.4p.m. Newsfront. Hosted by Ed Gorden. As the day winds down, the show reviews the top news stories and events of the day including reports form NBC news correspondents, contributors and guest interviews.Similarities and Differences 95p.m. News Chat. Hosted by John Gibson and Mary Kathleen Flynn. The show poses a controversial ?question of the day? to viewers as well as online users. Through in-studio guests, e-mail and viewer call-ins, Gibson moderates the program while Flynn monitors the online chat and e-mail questions.7p.m. Charles Grodin. Hosted by Charles Grodin. A prime-time talk show which takes a look at the week?s news events through discussion with newsmakers from the world of politics, law and entertainment.8p.m. Hockenberry. Host John Hockenberry blends newsmaker interviews with the review of the day?s top stories.9p.m. The News with Brian Williams. Hosted by Brian Williams. Anchored by the Emmy Award Winning journalist who is set to succeed Tom Brokaw. The show uses NBC News resources to offer viewers a nightly view of the news of the day. The show also gives viewers a first look at tomorrow?s headlines from around the world.10p.m. Time and Again. Hosted by Jane Pauley. The show gives viewers an in-depth look at a recent news event or news personality through a historical. Using the vast resources of the NBC News archives, it adds historical context to today?s news through interviews, extensive footage and archival reports. Beginning at 11p.m., MSNBC begins to replay its prime-time lineup. Like CNN, this programming strategy is for viewers on the west coast as well as those coming from a second shift. The station resumes live programming at 6am. Similarities and Differences 10Because these networks are categorized as news networks, one might expect to find similar programming. However, this is not the case. The programming and programming strategies are quite different. CNN and MSNBC both begin their day at 6am, but with two different programs. CNN airs an hour long business show, while MSNBC broadcast the controversial Imus In The Morning radio show. A classic example of counterprogramming. FoxNews starts the programming day at 7a.m. with a light news show. At this time CNN is airing a hard news program.This counterprogramming is continued throughout the morning until 12p.m. when both CNN and MSNBC air a noon news. FoxNews runs Fox News Now from 9a.m. to 5p.m. After the news broadcast, MSNBC continues with hard news while CNN gets soft with entertainment and feature shows. During prime access, CNN uses a strategy called bridging; beginning a program a half-hour earlier than competing programs. This strategy is used by another Ted Turner owned station, TBS. CNN uses this strategy at 6:30p.m with The Moneyline News Hour, with Lou Dobbs. By doing this, CNN now has one of its highest rated shows, Crossfire, beginning at 7:30p.m. One reason for doing this would be to keep viewers from tuning into Fox?s, O’Reilly Factor, the fastest growing news program in America. When you reach the 9 o?clock hour, you have two of the network aces’, Brian Williams and Larry King, against Fox?s Hannity and Colmes. Both and King?s and Williams? shows are their networks? most watched, but Williams? ratings pale in comparison to King?s. While Williams averages under 50,000 viewers, King sometimes garners over 500,000 (USA Today, 1997). The networks end the night silently with relatively less popular programs.Boosted by the Clinton/Lewinsky sex scandal, the rise and fall of the stock market, hurricanes, elections and John Glenn?s rocketride, all three networks have enjoyed improved ratings. FNC has possibly the best story to tell this year. The networks saw its universe grow 61 percent over the last year, to just under 35 million subscribers. FoxNews remains behind MSNBC?s 45 million sub base, which grew 38 percent over 1998. Even CNN grew 5 percent to 80 million (Cortese, 1998). FNC also gained ground on its rivals in household and demographic ratings, though it still trails both in delivery of viewers. For example, in prime-time so far this fourth quarter, FoxNews produced a 0.5 rating, reaching 169,000 homes, a 400 percent ratings increase and 479 percent delivery increase. FoxNews rating tied MSNBC but followed it in delivery of 207,000 homes. CNN led its rivals with a 1.0/758,000 homes up 25 and 37 percent respectively. However, in adults 25-54, all three networks were tied in ratings at 0.2, which represented one hundred percent surge for FoxNews and MSNBC but was flat for CNN (Cortese, 1998). CNN?s flat ratings could be in part to the turmoil created by a June 7 report on NewsStand. The report alleged that U.S. military forces dropped nerve gas on U.S. defectors and civilians in Laos (Tailwind Controversy, 1998). The following day CNN retracted the story and apologized to viewers and military personnel, but it may have been too late. During July, an average of 593,000 households watched CNN in prime-time, a drop from 680,000, a year earlier (Cortese, 1998). Similarities and Differences 12So the question isn?t, who is number one? But who does the future belong too. The answer may ultimately depend on how much money Microsoft, General Electric and Rupert Murdoch are willing to lose to make a profit.


Available: Directory: Studio tour

Conner, M. (1996, October3) News Corp.?s 24-hour news channel to start Monday. Reuter Business Report, [on-line]. Available: Business News Bank: Library subscription

Cortese, A., Siklos, R. (1998, August 17) This Little Peacock is Showing Some Pluck. Business Week, 3591, 64

Eastman, S. T. and Ferguson, D. A. (1997). Broadcast/Cable Programming(5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Higgins, J. M. and Petrozzello, D. (1997, July 28). Suit Settled, FNC moves to next battle. Broadcasting and Cable, 1068827,14-15

Johnson, P. (1997, June 4). MSNBC hasn?t plugged into a big audience yet. USA Today, p.D3


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