UPDATE, 4:30 PM: Unlike entertainment programming, the world of cable news is not one where Live + 3 numbers often have any relevance. You don’t often think of DVRs as how audiences watch CNN, Fox News or MSNBC but with some of the non-breaking news programming that Jeff Zucker has instituted since taking over CNN last year that may be changing. For instance, if its debut is any indication, CNN’s new Chicagoland docu series has a digital afterlife looks almost as far reaching as Lake Michigan on a clear day. In Live + 3 numbers the Robert Redford produced series saw its March 6 debut rise 23% in the adults 25-54 demo to 280,000 viewers. That moves the CNN show up to No. #1 in the news demo for its 10 PM time slot. Previously, Chicagoland had been in second place with 227,000 viewers among the 25-54s behind Fox News’ Hannity (247,000) and ahead of MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell (207,000) Overall, Chicagoland still stayed in third place among total viewers with 782,000. Up a bit from its Live + Same Day results, FNC’s Hannity easily held on to the top spot with 1.457 million total viewers and Last Word had 830,000.
PREVIOUS, MARCH 7 PM: The premiere of CNN’s new Chicagoland didn’t get totally whacked last night but it certainly didn’t make a ratings killing either – in fact it came a distant third in terms of total viewership compared to its cable news time slot rivals. The 10 PM debut Thursday of the cable news network’s heavily promoted 8-part documentary series drew 227,000 viewers among adults 25-54 with 629,000 total viewers. That was a drop in total viewership of 7% from the 673,000 that the second hour of CNN’s much less hyped And The Oscar Goes To… documentary pulled in on February 27. That also leaves Chicagoland in third place behind the 1.43 million total viewers who watched Fox News Channel’s Hannity and the 816,000 who tuned into MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.
In terms of the key news demo, Chicagoland was up 58% from the weak 144,000 viewers who watched the Oscars docu in the same time slot last week. Yes, that’s up just over 100% from the limbo low 113,000 viewers among the 25-54s that CNN has averaged on the previous four Thursdays in the time slot. However even with the full marketing efforts of CNN both on and off-air, Chicagoland was not that much ahead of the 207,000 among the 25-54s that MSNBC got last night with The Last Word– a show that was nowhere nearly as hyped as the Robert Redford executive produced series. Also, Chicagoland’s demo result was behind the 247,000 that watched Hannity at 10 PM on FNC. It’s worth noting that both the MSNBC and FNC shows were up 56% and 7% respectively in the demo from their February 27’s airings.
Even with its faltering results last night, Chicagoland is the best the Jeff Zucker-run CNN has done in the rocky Thursday time slot with the key news demo since it aired the marine park docu Blackfish back in the Fall of last year. Airing from 9-11PM on October 24, 2013, the Gabriela Cowperthwaite movie pulled in 472,000 viewers among the 25-54s and an audience of 1.5 million overall. Subsequent documentaries and other news programming over the two hours and in the 10PM slot has not fared anywhere near as well. Additionally, with the 10 PM slot now being tried out for different show and the upcoming departure of Piers Morgan from his 9 PM talk show, the majority of CNN’s primetime is in flux too.
With Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the focal point, the stylized Chicagoland kicked off its limited run by centering on the former White House Chief of Staff’s attempts to reform the city’s school system. Fenger Academy High School principal Elizabeth Dozier over in the rough Far South Side neighborhood of Roseland and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy figure prominently too as does a fatal shooting, union unrest and more violence on the Windy City’s streets. Announced last May, the new series, which includes an off-screen cell phone cameo by WME boss Ari Emanuel talking to his brother, is EPed by Redford with his Sundance Productions partner Laura Michalchyshyn and filmmakers Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin of BCTV. The network and the producers premiered the series at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.