NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
CNN, which lost its ratings lead to competitor Fox News Channel last year, continues to trail Fox News in the ratings in the initial days of war coverage, although both networks are posting large gains in viewership due to interest in war coverage.
The ratings from Nielsen Media Research since the start of the U.S. bombing of Iraq on March 19 show Fox News continuing to lead CNN through most of the afternoon and evening. Some analysts had thought the war would give CNN a boost back to the top spot.
On March 19 in the 9:39 p.m.-to-10 p.m. ET time slot, as the first report of the bombing of Iraq started, CNN scored a 5.7 rating and was watched in 4.9 million homes, compared with a 6.3 rating for Fox News, which was watched in 5.1 million homes. The third all-news channel, MSNBC had a 3.8 rating, viewed in 2.9 million homes.
Each rating point reflects the percentage of homes with that cable channel. While CNN has a slight edge in households that can watch it, Fox News' rating lead has generally given it more homes.
The 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. ET coverage that night, which included President Bush's address to the nation, saw CNN with a 6.3 rating and 5.4 million homes, and Fox with a 7.2 rating and 5.9 million homes.
"The ratings speak for themselves," said Fox News spokesman Paul Schur.
CNN has continued to trail Fox News in many of the ratings available through Monday. In a few time slots the two networks had equal ratings, which gave CNN a slight edge in households. The only ratings wins for CNN since the bombing started have been "NewsNight with Aaron Brown," which beat Fox News on Saturday and Monday evening in the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. ET time slot, and the 3 p.m.-to-5 p.m. coverage Sunday afternoon.
However, the cumulative number, which measures unique viewers for each channel, was higher for CNN during the days since bombing began, according to a network spokeswoman. She said a total of more than 90 million U.S. viewers watched CNN from the start of the war through Sunday's coverage, compared to 67 million viewers who tuned in at some point to Fox News and MSNBC's 57 million.
"In total, more people are coming to CNN for information on this important story than any other cable news network -- both in the U.S. and throughout the world," a CNN spokeswoman said.
Breaking news traditionally has been the strength for CNN. It had higher ratings on Feb. 1 with its coverage of the destruction of the Columbia space shuttle, for example.
Fox News' lead in the ratings had been attributed to stronger viewership of its commentary programs, such as "The O'Reilly Factor." Fox News' ratings win on the November 2002 election night coverage had been seen to be partially due to Republican success that night and that network's popularity among viewers with conservative political beliefs.
The ratings are well above year-to-date average ratings for both networks. In February CNN had an average 0.7 rating throughout the broadcast day, up from 0.5 a year earlier and in January of 2003. Fox News had a 1.1 rating, up from 0.7 a year earlier as well as in January of 2003.
CNN is a unit of AOL Time Warner (AOL: Research, Estimates), as is CNN/Money. Fox News is a unit of Fox Entertainment Group (FOX: Research, Estimates), which is majority owned by News Corp. (NWS: Research, Estimates)