Fox News Channel maintains a handsome lead in primetime and total day, while primetime runner-up CNN continues a healthy climb from the lows of 2012.
HLN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Jodi Arias trial has had substantial ratings legs. Surging around the time of the May 8 verdict, the network notched an extremely rare monthly victory: It topped MSNBC in total day and primetime. And with CNN posting its second consecutive month as a distant primetime runner-up to Fox News Channel, MSNBC is in a very precarious fourth place.
Averaging 539,000 viewers in primetime and 175,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demographic, MSNBC suffered double-digit drops from last May -- down a respective 20 and 19 percent. Losses were less substantial in total day, down 10 percent to an average 346,000 viewers and down 7 percent to 115,000 adults 25-54, while all other nets pulled growth in multiple categories.
The soft start for All In With Chris Hayes has not helped. Hayes, down 32 percent in total viewers from The Ed Show last May, has offered a poor lead-in for MSNBC's primetime flagship, The Rachel Maddow Show, at 9 p.m. The show delivered its lowest-rated month since it debuted in September 2008 (717,000 total viewers) and its second lowest with adults 25-54 (210,000). Maddow was topped by typical time slot victor Sean Hannity and CNN's Piers Morgan.
Winner FNC, posting modest year-to-year losses in the key demo, was still number three across all of cable in both primetime and total day. Heavily covering White House woes like the Benghazi hearings, the network averaged 1,246,000 daily viewers (up 24 percent) and 236,000 adults 25-54 (down 5 percent) for the full day. Primetime saw 17 percent growth with 1,973,000 total viewers and a 6 percent dip with 308,000 in 25-54.
CNN is in significantly better shape than it was last May when it hit 20-year lows. The network's year-to-year growth brought in a third-place 465,000 total viewers for total day and a second-place 660,000 total viewers in primetime, growth of 61 and 70 percent. CNN's demo jumps were more considerable, rising 92 percent to 161,000 adults 25-54 in total day and 97 percent to 225,000 adults 25-54 in primetime.
But the biggest percentage gains belong to HLN. The network posted its best May ever, coming in second in total day and third in primetime. Afternoon interest in Arias had the network up 111 percent to an average 494,000 viewers and up 90 percent to 175,000 in the demo during total day. Primetime saw total viewership climb 91 percent to 624,000 viewers and 97 percent to 209,000 adults 25-54.
Year-to-year comparisons will get trickier as the summer wears on, as 2012 saw viewership jump as the presidential election approached. HLN is also poised for a significant drop when the eventual Arias sentencing puts an end to what has been a very good story for the network.
Read the complete rankings, May 2013 versus May 2012, via Nielsen:
FNC: 1,246,000 total viewers, up 24 percent (236,000 in 25-54, down 5 percent)
CNN: 465,000 total viewers, up 61 percent (161,000 in 25-54, up 92 percent)
MSNBC: 346,000 total viewers, down 10 percent (115,000 in 25-54, down 7 percent)
HLN: 494,000 total viewers, up 111 percent (175,000 in 25-54, up 90 percent)
FNC: 1,973,000 total viewers, up 17 percent (308,000 in 25-54, down 6 percent)
CNN: 660,000 total viewers, up 70 percent (225,000 in 25-54, up 97 percent)
MSNBC: 539,000 total viewers, down 20 percent (175,000 in 25-54, down 19 percent)
HLN: 624,000 total viewers, up 91 percent (209,000 in 25-54, up 97 percent)