Cable News: A Maturing Platform with an Uncertain Future

Source Organization: Project for Excellence in Journalism


08/21/2006 - Although still quite young, (CNN, the granddaddy of the group, is just 26 years old) cable news is no longer the new kid on the information-delivery block, but rather a rapidly maturing medium whose overall audience appears to be leveling off.

Nielsen Media numbers indicate that ratings for all three cable news channels remained steady for the first half of the year. And a new media consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that the percentage of adults who say they regularly watch cable news dropped from 38% in 2004 -- a national election year -- to 34% this year. In another sign of potential trouble for cable news outlets -- which generally benefit from major news events -- the current Middle East crisis hasn't generated noticeable spikes in their primetime audiences.

Still in the heated cable news ratings wars, the big winner continues to be the Fox News Channel, which generates more primetime viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.

In our sixth roundtable, part of PEJ's series of nine roundtables with industry experts on the future of the news media, experts on Cable TV news share their thoughts on the direction of the industry. And there is disagreement about that future. While some of our analysts say the industry is poised to adapt to the changing news consumer, others seem convinced that dramatic innovations are necessary.

The panelists for this roundtable were:

Rick Kaplan, former President and General Manager, MSNBC

George Niesen, VP & Managing Editor, Kagan Research (an independent media research firm that provides economic, financial and technical analysis for the media & communications industries).

David Payne, Senior VP, CNN News Services & General Manager, CNN.com

Judy Woodruff, Special Correspondent for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

Note: Fox News declined to participate in the discussion

Read the full transcript -- State of the News Media 2006: Cable TV News Roundtable.


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