Last week started out like every other week in recently memory as far as the nightly ratings went. But the numbers changed once the announcement was made that the "King of Pop", Michael Jackson, had died on Thursday afternoon.
Let's start with FOX, they were on track to sweep the Adults 25 - 54 demographic ratings with a first place sweep at 8PM, 9PM, & 10PM on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday & Friday, they found themselves in second place in all three prime time slots. The regular programming average for the week (using a 4 day average that excludes special coded programming on Thursday at 8PM & 9PM) put FOX with the highest average at 8PM and second place at 9PM & 10PM. (I haven't gotten to say that in a very long time!)
MSNBC was doing well in the ratings on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with second place finishes in time slots except for Monday & Tuesday night at 10PM when they slipped to third place. On Thursday & Friday, they they were consistently third except for Friday at 10PM when they placed fourth. MSNBC ran special programming on Thursday night from 8PM - 10PM and also on Friday night at 9PM. Their Adults 25 - 54 demographic average for regular programming put them in third place at 8PM using a four night average (not including Thursday), third place at 9PM using a three night average (not including Thursday or Friday) and fouth place at 10PM using a four night average (not including Thursday).
HLN had regular programming all five nights and wasn't doing as well as they have in past weeks even at the beginning of the week. HLN was in fourth place in all time slots except at 8PM on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and on Friday at 10PM when they moved up to third place. This put their average for the week (using a five night average) in fourth place at 8PM and 9PM. At 10PM, the five night average pulls them up to a third place finish. Sometimes other network's special proramming hurts you and in other cases it helps you.
Last but not least, CNN's ratings for the week. Viewers may watch CNN on a daily basis significantly less now than compared to last year, but when a huge story breaks CNN's ratings sky rocket. The ratings for Monday through Wednesday were similar to what we've seen over the last several months. At 8PM, they were in fourth; at 9PM, they were in third; and at 10PM, they were in second on Monday & Tuesday (with John Roberts and Campbell Brown filling in for Anderson Cooper) and dropped to third on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, CNN swept all three prime time hours (8PM, 9PM, and 10PM) with a first place finish. The impact this had on the average for the week, along with CNN using their regular programming line up to cover the Michael Jackson story, left CNN in second place at 8PM and in first place at both 9PM and 10PM.
One more note about CNN's ratings on Thursday & Friday... CNN had the highest Adults 25 - 54 demographic ratings on Thursday & Friday every hour from 5PM - midnight. They also had the highest Total Viewer ratings on Thursday every hour from 6PM - midnight and on Friday from 9PM - midnight.
1 4 night average used. Thursday night excluded for special programming covering Michael Jackson's death on FOX at 8PM & 9PM and MSNBC at 8PM & 10PM.
2 3 night average used. Thursday and Friday night excluded for special programming covering Michael Jackson's death on MSNBC at 9PM.
^ Courtesy Nielsen Media Research; Demographics where noted; Live + Same Day (LS) Fast Track Nationals.