Reid Wilson shares a map from National Media, a Republican ad-buying firm, depicting a recent television event: “Using data from Rentrak, a company that monitors data from set-top boxes, the map shows what percentage of television viewers in specific designated market areas watched this television event live.” It’s worth clicking over and reading.
Unsurprisingly, red or Republican-leaning counties, particularly rural and Southern, watched the season premiere of Duck Dynasty while Democratic-leaning counties generally tuned it out. Huge viewership in Louisiana, lowest viewership in New York, San Francisco, and Miami.
What’s more, you could argue that the red-state audience is what’s keeping television afloat these days.
That premiere episode of Duck Dynasty set a new record for audience size for basic-cable “nonfiction series” — read, reality shows — with 11.8 million. In broadcast television, the top show last week was CBS’s Under the Dome, with . . . 10.3 million. (Yes, most network shows are in reruns right now, while the Duck Dynasty episode was new.)
This Wednesday night, Duck Dynasty had 10 million viewers, gargantuan by the standards of basic cable and larger than most prime-time network television show audiences.
There’s a steep drop-off. The show that immediately followed Duck Dynasty on A&E, Modern Dads, was the second-most popular prime-time basic show on television that night, with 3.9 million viewers. Third-most popular? Family Guy, on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” with 1.5 million.
(If you’re wondering how cable news audiences compare for Wednesday night, it included 2.5 million for O’Reilly, 1.5 million for Sean Hannity, and 1.4 million for Greta van Susteren. Over on CNN, it was 568,000 for Anderson Cooper, 481,000 for Piers Morgan, and 360,000 for Jake Tapper Reports*. On MSNBC, it was 509,000 for All In with Chris Hayes, 575,000 for Rachel Maddow, and 643,000 for Lawrence O’Donnell. Notice that while it’s in a distant third place, MSNBC is one of the few networks where the audience gets larger as the night goes on.)
Some shows that get a lot more “buzz” have much, much smaller audiences. Mad Men averaged 2.5 million viewers, with another 2.4 million watching on-demand later.
HBO’s bloody sword drama Game of Thrones averaged 14 million. Breaking Bad, currently on the cover of NR, is at 4.7 million.
HBO’s Girls has only 632,000 viewers watching its episodes live, but 1.1 million watching its reruns, and one reviewer calculates 4.6 million on demand.
* UPDATE: I’m reminded that what ran on Wednesday evening at 10 p.m. on CNN was Jake Tapper’s documentary about Medal of Honor recipient SSG Ty Carter, not a rebroadcast of his 4 p.m. “The Lead” newscast.
All in all, the kind of news programming that many of us wish reached a wider audience: