Politics

Cable News Doesn't Deserve So Much Attention

It's much ado about television programming with very low ratings and questionable impact.

Cable News Doesn't Deserve So Much Attention
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Cable news gets a lot of attention: battles between cable news channels, who's in and who's out on cable news channels and everyday bickering on cable news channels.

Sorry, we should clarify. Cable news gets a lot of attention from people who work in media, like us — and from cable news. Not so much from most people who watch television.

Let's make a few comparisons. Fox News is by far the ratings leader of the three main cable outlets, as its hosts so often remind us.

BILL O'REILLY VIA FOX NEWS: "We're authentic and honest, and that's why we continue to be on top."

And these are the average numbers of viewers who are tuning in to each cable news outlet during primetime in this year's third quarter.

For some perspective, roughly five times more people watched "Grey's Anatomy" this past week. Yeah, that show is still on. Even NBC's "Bad Judge" tripled Fox's audience. 

To their credit, cable news viewers are certainly dedicated. Stats from Pew Research say cable news viewers watch 50 more minutes per day than viewers of network or local news.

Still, even on cable, the news channels don't stand a chance next to show's like "The Walking Dead." Its big premiere Sunday pulled in 10 times Fox's primetime viewership and more than 30 times CNN's audience.

So, with so few people actually tuning in to cable news, why do those channels and their various pundits and hosts get so much media attention? Two theories.

One, because what's happening on those cable news channels arguably has more cultural significance than what's happening on reruns of NCIS. Arguably.

CNN: "Call it Cap'n Crunch Gate. ... Take a look at the Cap'n here. Do you notice anything wrong?"

And two, because people who work in news coincidentally seem to watch a lot of news. 24 hours a day, actually. And cable is where they can get that.

When you and your colleagues are tuning in, it's easy to forget most people just want to relax and watch a singing competition.

If cable news has an oversized influence now, just wait a few years. The channels' already low ratings are actually getting lower.