CNN in third place in prime time for first time: AP

AP:

NEW YORK (AP) – CNN is poised to finish March third in the prime-time weeknight ratings behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC, the first time this has ever happened for the channel that pioneered the cable news genre nearly three decades ago.

CNN says its overall business is healthy and it is not straying from its straight news path. But it is suffering more audience erosion than its rivals since the peak days of the presidential election, further proof that the opinionated prime-time shows on Fox and MSNBC have greater audience loyalty.

CNN’s weekday prime-time ratings are relatively flat compared to last year during the primary campaign, up 1 percent from March 2008, according to Nielsen Media Research. Fox’s ratings have jumped 30 percent and MSNBC, the new No. 2, is up 24 percent. The biggest growth in cable news is for CNN’s partner, Headline News, which is up 62 percent.

Fox remains on a mountain above its two closest competitors, with its prime-time audience in March more than that of MSNBC and CNN combined. “The O’Reilly Factor” has done particularly well, keeping more of its postelection audience than anything else on CNN and MSNBC.

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