2009: Top 5 Cable News Stories

Here are ICN’s top 5 cable news stories of 2009…

5. CNN’s 3rd Place Primetime Demo Finish – This is more symbolic than substantive. CNN’s long range trajectory for the primetime Demo has been going up. But sometimes symbolism can become substantive if enough people start writing about it and it becomes ingrained in the readers’ minds. And that’s what makes CNN’s 3rd Place Demo finish, upward trend or no upward trend, so dangerous for those running the network.

4. FBN abandons direct head to head morning business news competition with CNBC – Don Imus. That says it all. The network continues to say things to the contrary – that it’s not giving up business news; that there are business updates during Imus, that FoxBusiness.com streams more in depth business news analysis – all of that is irrelevant. If FBN does succeed from 6-9 in the ratings now, it will be because the network went out and hired a non-business oriented shock jock. And because of that, regardless of what FBN does in the ratings, CNBC will not be concerned.

3. MSNBC dayside crashes – In 2009 we saw the network replace the person in charge of dayside “editorial control” with someone new, re-boot the day with Morning Meeting, Carlos Watson, Dr. Nancy, and pairing Tamron Hall and David Shuster. None of that has prevented the network from falling to 4th place in the dayside demo behind HLN. Some parts of the day it even trailed CNBC. Watson was jettisoned a couple of months later, Ratigan will be moved to afternoons beginning next month, and a new show with Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie will debut from 9-10. That will not be enough so expect more.

2. Glenn Beck rules all – 2009 was the year of Glenn. The Glenn Beck phenomenon dominated 2009 more than any other personality on cable. The buzz has trailed off a bit since it was red red hot a few months ago, but it still scorches just about everyone else by a mile. By rights Beck should have been the #1 and it would have to take something truly extraordinary to knock him down a peg. Something did just that.

1. GE and News Corp. agree to restrain Olbermann and O’Reilly and end “the feud”. Olbermann successfully stares down GE and re-institutes the feud – This story was the most important story in cable news in 2009 and I would argue it was in the top three stories for all of media this year. This story had a multi-national corporation (GE) essentially muzzle one employee (Olbermann) in an ancillary company (MSNBC) far down the chain in order to take the heat off of the multi-national corporation being generated by the other party to this feud (O’Reilly).

This deal might have lasted if they could have kept the lid on it. But they couldn’t. It started leaking almost immediately. I tweeted about the possibility of a deal seven days after Olbermann “retired” O’Reilly. But the story remained off the front page until the New York Times’ Brian Stelter broke through (forget it LA Times…we both know you were fed that by FNC in order to short circuit Stelter) with a front page story which included a GE spokesperson saying that the feud needed to end. What they really meant was “We expect it to stay ended Olbermann”.

However Olbermann immediately resumed his attacks of O’Reilly and, a few days later, O’Reilly resumed his attacks on GE. And what did GE say or do after telling the world it basically expected this to stay “over”? Nothing. Olbermann had successfully stared down GE and GE blinked. And that is why this story ranks higher than any other cable news story in 2009.


4 Responses to “2009: Top 5 Cable News Stories”

  1. Spud, what about the White House calling in and communicating w/the Morning Joe people? Isn’t this huge – evidence of having the WH try to spin the news?

  2. …evidence of having the WH try to spin the news?

    How is that news? Every WH does it. It certainly doesn’t qualify as an important cable news event.

  3. Yeah. Compared to the others on this list that one is minor league.

  4. A few stories that I thought were important were:
    Lou Dobbs leaving CNN for who knows what.
    The continuing evolution of HLN from a cable news channel to a tabloid & entertainment news channel (at least in prime time) with a corresponding growth in ratings. I expect this to continue until the 2010 election coverage kicks in.
    Comcast buys GE(NBC). Will it cause changes to how MSNBC operates?
    The growth of social networking (especially Twitter) in cable news; a fad that can’t end too soon for me. Related: the continued growth of viewer reporting; Ireports etc.
    The rise in in house feuding among cable news hosts. CNBC was particularly bad at allowing this to happen in 2009.
    My favorite story; the emergence of Fareed Zakaria’s GPS as the best show on cable news.

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