THE AUDIENCE NUMBERS FOR FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S PRIME-TIME COVERAGE OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.'S PLANE WERE REPORTED INCORRECTLY IN WEDNESDAY'S STYLE SECTION. LAST SATURDAY THE CHANNEL AVERAGED 705,000 VIEWERS. ON SUNDAY, THE AUDIENCE WAS 717,000 VIEWERS, MAKING IT THE MOST-WATCHED PRIME-TIME PERIOD IN THE CHANNEL'S HISTORY.
Newsmagazine coverage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash caused a small ratings surge last weekend, but it was newsless Fox that won the week thanks to baseball's All-Star Game. Fewer than 120,000 viewers separated the first- and fourth-place networks, but the win went to Fox with an average of just 8.42 million viewers, closely followed by CBS's 8.41 million. ABC, CBS and NBC blew out some Saturday and Sunday prime-time programming for coverage of the Kennedy story. A total of 37 million people tuned in to their Sunday coverage overall--about twice as many as watched the Saturday news specials.
Here's a look at the week's winners and losers:
"60 Minutes." An average of 13.3 million people watched CBS's long-running newsmagazine on Sunday night to learn the latest about the plane's disappearance. More people tuned in to "60 Minutes" for information about the tragedy than to any other single news program on any network, broadcast or cable.
Sunday "20/20." All three editions of the ABC newsmagazine, on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, landed among the week's top 10 shows, led by Sunday's coverage of the JFK Jr. story. That broadcast scored 12.8 million viewers and, not surprisingly, more young adults than "60 Minutes."
Sunday "Dateline." NBC aired two hours of "Dateline" to cover the accident and from 8 to 9 p.m. had a 50 percent ratings increase vs. the show's summer Sunday average.
"48 Hours." Thursday's CBS newsmag beat "ER"--both in reruns. It's the fourth time since the start of last season that the CBS show beat the once-invincible NBC drama.
All-Star Game. The week's most watched show bagged 17.6 million viewers--a million fewer than last year but about a million more than the franchise's last Fox-cast.
"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." The better-late-than-never "Buffy" season finale snagged the show's biggest male audience ever--probably owing to Internet buzz over the controversial episode. The 6.5 million viewers it averaged overall made for the show's best numbers since Jan. 19--no great shakes.
Cable news networks. The Kennedy tragedy boosted viewership on the cable news networks last weekend. In prime time on Saturday, CNN averaged 3.1 million viewers, MSNBC 1.0 million and Fox News Channel 205,000 viewers. Sunday, CNN averaged 2.9 million, MSNBC 2.0 million and Fox News Channel 705,000. Each network recorded gigantic total-day increases on both days compared with the July 1-16 average; on Sunday, CNN jumped 619 percent, MSNBC spiked 800 percent and Fox News Channel leapt 490 percent.
UPN's Thursday. Is UPN trying to tank on Thursday so that when it debuts wrestling there in the fall it can brag about humongous ratings hikes? Last week, two burned-off episodes of canceled "Mercy Point" on Thursday gave the network the smallest nightly audience in its history--fewer than a million viewers.
Wednesday's "20/20." Sure, it was a Top 10 program for the week, but shouldn't the hyped-to-death Diane Sawyer "does" Tom Cruise interview have landed lots more viewers than Friday's edition of the newsmag? Sawyer's Cruise chat averaged only about 770,000 more viewers than Friday's "20/20," which had featured a report on car fires, a rerun segment on Madame Butterfly and a John Stossel report.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order: Fox's All-Star Game and pregame shows; CBS's "60 Minutes"; ABC's Sunday, Wednesday and Friday "20/20"; NBC's Sunday 8 p.m. "Dateline" and Thursday "Will & Grace"; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond"; and NBC's "Frasier."