One of the things that those of us in the media are always conscious of is our shows ratings. We live or die by ratings. Our ratings are what advertising revenue is based on. The more viewers or listeners we have the more we can charge for advertising time and the more profitable the station or network becomes.

Where Do Ratings Come From?

CNN announced they were parting company with “Piers Morgan Live” this week. Morgan, who replaced “Larry King Live,” had posted very low ratings over the past few months. Jay Leno was recently replaced by Jimmy Fallon.

In entertainment content is king. Viewers or listeners need to like the host, like the topics, like the guests and like the production. Any faulty combination of these can kill a show.

It’s a cutthroat business and being on top and staying there is everyone’s goal. Getting eyeballs on the screen or ears to the radio is all we think about. Finding a show that works is great, but when an entire network dominates their particular genre, someone has to ask, “How do they do that?”

Why Do Viewers Gravitate to FOX?

The FOX New Channel first hit the airwaves to 17 million subscribers on October 7, 1996. Currently about 97 million households or 85.1 percent of cable news viewers receive the FOX News Channel.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 17 years you’ve seen or heard a sound bite with someone screaming, “FOX LIES!” There are countless YouTube videos that claim to show how FOX distorts the news. So if all this is true how do they stay number one in the ratings?

If the ratings for FOX News are accurate, and no one seems to be disputing that they’re not, then why the big audience? Could Abe Lincoln be lying? Can you fool all the people all the time? I have my doubts.

The FOX News Model

If you look at the ratings of the Top 25 prime time TV shows you’ll see some ABC, CBS and NBC shows. Look at FOX cable news ratings any time, and I mean any time, of the day or night and they are number one in every single time slot, every age demographic, all day and all night.

They are number one in the morning shows, number one all through the day and number one in prime time. I seriously don’t believe you can do that by lying or distorting the news. And if you have 85 percent of the market you have to have members of both political parties tuned in.

People watch FOX because of how they present, not what they present. During the 9/11 attacks they were the first network to use the ticker across the bottom of the screen, keeping viewers up to date with anything breaking. They were the first to show guests credentials next to their pictures so people could immediately decide how credible they were.

They used superior graphics and were the first to use the “News Alert” that would show breaking news immediately during an interview. In brief, they made news entertaining. Commentators added varying points of view from different perspectives. All other cable news channels have simply become weak imitations of FOX.

Some Final Thoughts

It always seemed a little strange to me that people who are so quick to point out what they perceive as FOX lies and/or distortions claim to never watch the network. How does that work? Someone has to watch or how else would all these clips and sound bites end up on YouTube and Facebook?

And, if the clips and sound bites are true, why don’t they generate any traction with the American TV viewer? Why would I subject myself to distorted news? I mean shouldn’t people be getting the message sooner or later? People didn’t seem to have any trouble tuning out Piers Morgan so why don’t they tune out Bill O’Reilly?

The main reason is people like entertainment. They want news, they want information and they want facts but they also want to enjoy themselves while getting them and that’s what FOX delivers that others don’t. Are they “Fair and Balanced?” Well you can be the judge of that. Being the best at what they do — that jury is back — and the ratings tell the story.

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