If Fox News Channel is not the television network of the Republican Party, it's news to American viewers.
More people watched California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Bush twins and mom Laura address GOP conventioneers on Fox News Channel than on any of the broadcast networks Tuesday night.
This is the first time in its eight-year history that FNC has beaten ABC, CBS and NBC in covering a news event.
During the 10 to 11 p.m. hour, when the Terminator and the Bush clan spoke, FNC averaged 5.2 million viewers. NBC News averaged 5.14 million, CBS News 4.4 million and ABC News 4.3 million.
In another upset, MSNBC averaged 1.61 million viewers to CNN's 1.55 million during the Schwarzenegger-Bush blitz, with coverage anchored by Chris Matthews edging out CNN's coverage with Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff. (For the full prime-time Tuesday, MSNBC also edged out CNN with 1.3 million and 1.2 million viewers, respectively. But FNC did more than those two combined, averaging 4.1 million people.)
ABC's and CBS's numbers were on par with their first night's coverage of the Democrats' clambake in July (the Big Three networks covered Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights during that convention), while NBC's average was about 1 million viewers ahead of its first night at the Democratic convention. MSNBC's Tuesday prime-time average is only very slightly ahead of its Tuesday Democratic convention score, and CNN fumbled about 1 million viewers that night, convention-to-convention. That might account for some but not all of FNC's increase.
Meanwhile, FNC's numbers at the Republican convention have skyrocketed. During the Democratic convention, its biggest audience was the 3 million who gathered on Tuesday, July 27, at 8 p.m. when Bill O'Reilly went mano a mano with documentarian Michael Moore. In the 10 p.m. hour, the biggest draw FNC was able to secure during the Democrats' Boston party was 2.6 million for Sen. John Kerry's acceptance speech.
Yesterday the other networks mulled the meaning of Tuesday's development from the comfortable shroud of anonymity:
"Fox News Channel doing a big number at the RNC is the least shocking thing that's happened all week," said one broadcast network exec. "The Olympics are to NBC what the RNC is to Fox News."
"It says that Fox News Channel is the official channel of the GOP, and if people didn't know it before they certainly know it now," offered another competitor.
Still another said FNC's success Tuesday night suggests the cable news network is the "in-house organ" of the Republican Party.
"It must be embarrassing to no end that they got beat by a cable news network," FNC rep Paul Schur responded.
"Saying Fox News won because it appeals to Republicans is like saying a 'Sopranos' finale only beat the broadcast networks because it appealed to Italian Americans."
Informed of that response, one of the competitors retorted, "To paraphrase 'The Daily Show': 'To call Fox News Channel appealing to Republicans is to call Marcel Marceau a little quiet.' "
To which Schur then responded: "These are the groans the dinosaurs made before they became extinct."
Well, this is fun and we could go on like this forever, but we've already busted deadline and our editor says we have to knock it off.
More than 200 million people watched NBC's coverage of the Athens Olympics, according to the network, which would mean that more than 200 million people were bombarded with those promos for the new animated comedy "Father of the Pride" that littered the 17 consecutive days of Games coverage.
And yet, an average of just 11 million of them tuned in Tuesday night to watch the unveiling of the prime-time cartoon series about a family of adorable and apparently quite lustful white lions who toil for the Siegfried & Roy act in Vegas -- only it's in an alternate universe where Roy hasn't been mauled by one his white felines and their wild-animals-make-wonderful-pets show hasn't been shut down.
Since 1999, NBC has debuted 16 sitcoms in the fall. The "Father of the Pride" debut finishes in the bottom five of that list. It scored fewer viewers than had the debuts of "Inside Schwartz," "Stark Raving Mad," "Cursed," "Good Morning, Miami," "Hidden Hills," "DAG," "Scrubs," "Coupling," "Whoopi," "Happy Family" and "The Michael Richards Show" -- none of which enjoyed more than 200 million unique viewers who'd been exposed to an onslaught of promos heralding its unveiling.
"Father of the Pride" did, however, bag more viewers than the debuts of "In-Laws," "The Mike O'Malley Show," "Emeril" and "Tucker."
Guess we'll have to add "Father of the Pride" to the list of new shows that NBC promoted like mad during Olympics broadcasts to no avail -- a longish list that includes, among others, "Watching Ellie," "Leap of Faith" and that Michael Richards show. (In fairness, NBC does not have the corner on this market. Other networks have tried and failed to launch series off big-ticket sporting events, including the Olympics.)
But here's some good news for NBC. In that list of 16, "Father of the Pride" is No. 2 among kids ages 2 to 11.
Oh, wait, "Father of the Pride" was supposed to be an adult program, despite its cuddly animation style. NBC's promos said so, and the network scheduled it at 9 p.m., which, NBC promised, would send a clear message to viewers that it was not appropriate for children. In that first episode, Larry the Lion heads home to have sex with his wife because she's in heat and roars, "It may be 9 o'clock in New York but right here, it's mountin' time!" after spray-painting a happy face on his nipples and belly with whipped cream. Later, his even hornier elderly father-in-law screams at an unhappily single 30-year-old female panda, "I'll tell you what's wrong with you -- your ovaries are turning into concrete. Go home!"
Guess maybe it wasn't such a good idea to brag in those promos that the show comes from the same guys who brought you "Shrek."