Any time CNN beats Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly it’s news — Anderson Cooper did it last night in the news demo. His Anderson Cooper 360 logged 431,000 demo viewers at 8 PM; The O’Reilly Factor clocked an average of 386,000 in the 25-54 age bracket. In overall audience O’Reilly continued to dominate with 2.81 million viewers — laps ahead of AC360′s 972,000. And, in primetime overall, FNC maintained its first-place demo status with 360,000 viewers, to CNN’s 309,000.
CNN has been garnering some stronger-than-usual numbers the past couple days as the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 grips viewers. Last night’s AC360 demo results were its best since October 16, 2013 when Cooper posted 466,000 demo viewers during the Senate vote to end the government shutdown.
In the latest twist, The Wall Street Journal broke news that U.S. officials believe the missing plane may have stayed in the air for up to four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, raising the possibility the plane could have flown for hundreds of additional miles. And Malaysian authorities have said they have several “pings” of engine data from the airliner’s service data system, transmitted to satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal, suggesting the plane might have flown into the Indian Ocean. It’s the kind of story that tends to drive viewers to CNN — which is the good news and the bad news for the network. CNN has struggled for years to find a way to hang on to those viewers after the major catastrophe/news subsides. This story has been no exception. Since the plane went missing, CNN has averaged 252,000 primetime demo viewers; year to date through March 9, the network was averaging 140,000 primetime demo viewers. It’s the same story in total viewers: Year to date through March 9 the cable news net was averaging 450,000 Monday-Friday primetime viewers; since the plane went missing, CNN’s averaged 667,000. (That said, FNC hung on to its first-place status yesterday morning when news broke of a blast in Harlem.)
AC360 last scored a bigger demo number than The O’Reilly Factor when the Zimmerman jury was in deliberations on July 12, ’13 — but, of course, O’Reilly wasn’t hosting that day (CNN’s show logged 442,000 demo viewers to FNC’s 250,000 in the slot). Before that, you have to go back to May 8, ’13 — a.k.a the day of the Jodi Arias verdict – when Cooper edged out O’Reilly with 573,000 demo viewers and 508,000 demo viewers, respectively.