In the the first quarter of this year Anderson Cooper did gangbusters in the ratings for the news demographic, winning his time slot in March* against Greta van Susteren at Fox News and the Ed Show at MSNBC for the first time in over two years. He pulled in an average of 858,000 total viewers too. The surge was no doubt due in part to his coverage of international events like the Japanese tsunami disaster, uprisings in the Arab world, and tornadoes in the Midwest. Anderson thrives when he's on the ground in tough spots, and is able to emote. (Not something, say, Greta is known for.) In the second quarter he was still beating the Ed Show but trailing Greta, earning himself 841,000 total viewers. Then, last week, he switched to the 8 p.m. hour.
Fox News's Bill O'Reilly owns that hour, pulling in over 3 million total viewers. Anderson took a significant hit in his first three nights, falling to 540,000 total viewers, then 604,000, then 398,000. That's even though CNN highly touted his trip to Africa, where he broadcast live from starvation-stricken Somalia. O'Reilly stayed at home and concentrated on domestic issues like the credit downgrade crisis that was wreaking havoc with the stock market. As a result, his viewership was as much as five times greater.
Thursday night was the Republican debate, a night when host Fox News dominated by bringing in five million viewers (incidentally far outpacing the last, less-hyped GOP debate). Then on Friday night, Anderson still trailed the competition, but let's be honest — who watches cable news on Friday night? There's meat on sticks to be eaten!
Interestingly, Anderson fared better generally in his original time slot — 10 p.m. — when his show was rerun for the second time. People are still probably looking for him then, and a first week's ratings aren't generally a steady indicator of future success. But if CNN was hoping to take a chunk of out O'Reilly or even Lawrence O'Donnell at MSNBC, they've got an uphill battle ahead of them to say the least.
*This sentence was adjusted for clarification.