Could be some of this talk about the collapse of CNN has been a bit premature. The network, riding a tidal wave of Michael Jackson mania, just had the best July in its entire history. CNN's weekday primetime audience average 1.28 million, kicking sand in the faces of cable news' once-and-perhaps-future 98-pound weakling, MSNBC, withjust 868,000 viewers. MSNBC, which has been on the verge of establishing itself as the No. 2 news network in the ratings, slipped way back in July, finishing fourth place in the 25-to-54 age demographic that news shows like.
Whether CNN lives might depend on whether another celebrity dies. There's not much doubt that Michael Jackson coverage triggered CNN's ratings surge. Larry King Live!, which practically renamed itself Michael Jackson Dead! during the month, jumped 54 percent in the ratings.
What isn't working: Lou Dobbs' rants about President Obama's birth certificate. His overall audience dropped 5 percent, and almost double that in the 25-to-54 demo. But take heart, Lou; your July was da bomb compared to Keith Olbermann's. His demo audience was the lowest it's been since December 2007, and that was no fluke: Olbermann's ratings have been steadily shrinking for nine months now.
While CNN and MSNBC scrap for second place, Fox News just keeps rolling along in first -- except more so. Not only did Fox News have more viewers than its two competitors combined, but its primetime audience in the 25-to-54 demo jumped an insane 70 percent.
UPDATE: To answer a question posted down below, no, Nielsen TV ratings do not count podcasts or other online viewing. Nielsen has a new service that's starting to count those numbers, but I think it's still pretty experimental. And the online audience for television shows is still believed to be tiny, though it's growing all the time and undoubtedly represents the future.