Since you all are so involved in ON THE RECORD at 7pm (many of you go way back watching ON THE RECORD at 10pm….some to our 2002 launch!), I thought I would give you a brief update on how we (and that includes YOU) are doing. We launched October 7, and so now is a good time to take a brief look.
At the end of our first month, we are proud to say we are #1 at 7pm in all of cable news. And while our competition is the 7pm across the cable news channel, it really is more fun to compete with ourselves. We want to improve each month from what we have done the month before and thus to beat ourselves. We are doing that. Our graph is going up since launch.
According to the numbers I was given, between September (before we launched OTR at 7pm) and now (November), the 7pm hour is up 31 % in total viewers (and in the age group of 25-54, we are up 24%.) Needless to say, the staff is very pleased and we thank YOU for making it possible. Needless to say, Fox is happy, too.
And during last few weeks since we launched we continue to grow more. We are also beating ourselves. Since the launch on Oct. 7, we are up 12% total viewers more and 15% more in the younger demo. Of course we thank you for this, too.
I assume that we will continue to grow at 7pm and this makes it fun. With my 20+ years in cable news, I have learned that it does take a while to build a cable news show in a different hour – especially one remote from where you were. I always guess it take about 6 months for the word to get out that a show has moved and also for us to figure out what the 7pm viewer audience wants to see and how to present it. Different hours have different viewer appetites and viewer patterns. People have fixed viewing habits and it takes some time to convince them to change their habits. For instance in DC market, I think we are up against NBC’s Brian WIlliams and his 7pm newscast. Some people have been watching that for years and so we need to give them a reason to change that viewing habit to ON THE RECORD at 7pm. So, in light of the foregoing, I am particularly pleased that so soon we are doing so well and growing.
There is much for us to learn about 7pm. What is interesting about changing hours is something so simple as the number of TV’s turned on during the hour. As it gets later in the evening – eg 9 and 10 – more TV’s are turned on in the nation so there are greater odds to grab eyeballs to watch. The more TV’s turned on, the more likely you will nab a viewer. While we have a new challenge at 7pm in that less TV’s are turned on across the nation during the hour than later hours, a new and greater challenge does make it a lot more fun.
Of course we do have advantages at 7pm that we did not have at 10pm. 10pm can be rougher than 7pm. (I think 10pm is much harder than 7pm!) It sure is easier to get a politician live at 7pm than it ever was at 10pm. I also am happy that we no longer compete on Mondays and Thursdays with the last half of NFL games! (And ugh! 10pm hour is when the most exciting times of the World Series ….and then there is the NBA playoffs!)
And if you really want to get into the weeds of cable news analysis, think about the hours. For instance, 8pm is an hour when people like to watch cable news. It just is not that late (like 10pm) when most people are going to bed. If you are on at 10pm, where is it 8pm in the country when people are most likely to watch? 10pm eastern is 8pm Mountain time and there sure are a lot less people living in the Rockies and thus watching TV at 8pm Mountain (10pm eastern) than there are in the highly populated times zones of Central or Eastern during their 8pm. So lucky for us now at 7pm that we don’t deal with the things like Mountain time zone. Of course that is a new challenge for Sean and he is already #1 at 10pm (right from day 1 of his launch) so he has obviously figured that one out.
Some of you have complained to me (yes, I read your comments!) that we have too many commercials in our new time of 7pm. We have the SAME commercial time at 7pm that we had at 10pm. We have shuffled the commercial breaks differently at 7pm than at 10pm and thus the apparent difference to some of you. When we were on at 10pm, we had more commercials toward the end of the hour and I think now the commercials are more evenly divided but I am not sure since that is done by the producers. Obviously we have to air commercials or we could not pay the light bills or the rent. I would not be surprised if during the course of the next few years or even months that the commercial breaks did not get re-shuffled again. There are all sorts of reasons for shuffling the breaks — including the guests and time allotted for interviews and the topics but that is done by our producers in New York.
At any given hour in a cable news day, every network faces the same challenges — thus the competition is not between the different hours of any network but rather with cable news shows in different networks in the SAME hour. But even more fun, more fun than competing with another network in the same hour, is the competition we set for ourselves: to improve. But I want to make another point: numbers do not tell it all. Quality is what matters.
How does the staff like the new hour of 7pm? I think they feel like i do: thrilled. I had not realized it but, besides the lateness of the hour and thus the inability to have dinner at home or with friends, we really were not challenged anymore. While of course we loved being #1 for all those years, the challenge of an adventure was missing. We loved our jobs, and appreciated them — but there is nothing like a new challenge and the 7pm gave us that.
We have so much to learn at 7pm and I hope our statistics noted above are not just the product of having ‘beginner’s luck.’ I hope we do a quality cable news show and continue to do better each night. I hope we don’t disappoint you. One other last thing, don’t expect perfection – after all we are human and it is live – but do expect and demand that we work hard each night to do the best job we can for you. And when we make a mistake? The next day we will just get ‘back up on the horse’ and do better.