I understand why author Margaret Atwood, former CBC host Don Newman and many in Canada’s established news media tried so vociferously to disparage the Sun News Network last year and earlier this year in the lead up to its April 2011 launch. I am somewhat surprised at how ineffective their efforts proved to be, however.
Tactics like misnaming the new network as “Fox News North” and signing and publicizing a much trumped-up petition against the network’s CRTC application were designed to protect their beloved CBC news channel and secondarily Bell Media’s news channel at CTV. Apparently, though, their tactics haven’t worked. To the contrary, Sun News seems to be flourishing.
Nor has their attempt to paint the new channel as a arm of the Conservative Party worked very well.
Back in 2010, Don Newman predicted that:
“… the Sun Network is designed to enlarge and energize the Conservative voting base, and make money while doing it, just like Fox News in the United States.
“… no doubt when it is on the air, one of the first Sun TV headline events will be an ‘exclusive’ interview with the prime minister [Stephen Harper]. I’d expect the interview will seem more like a back rub for Harper than an inquiry.”
Did I miss the prime minister’s “exclusive” interview?
But Newman isn’t a particularly astute predictor of anything, as far as I can tell. He wrote in the same piece that:
“[Pierre Karl] Lavoie knows that as a news gathering organization, Sun TV is no threat to either of the news channels operated by the CBC and CTV.”
He’s dead wrong there too—unless, of course, Newman thinks beating the established, wider distributed news networks in viewer ratings doesn’t count as a threat. Surely a news gathering organization needs viewers to consume the news it gathers, otherwise, why bother.
All this is by way of a (long) introduction to inform readers that Sun News Network is scoring early ratings wins despite Sun News not being as widely available as either CBC or CTV. While Sun News is in about 5.5 million households, the government-subsidized CBC News Network is in 10.6 million homes and Bell Media’s CTV news channel is in 8.5 million.
Even with this handicap, Sun News is doing very well. Canoe.ca reports:
“During the afternoon and in prime time, Sun News programming bested the state broadcaster’s News Network by more than 30,000 viewers. CTV News Channel was a distant third.”
According to BBM ratings data, Charles Adler’s show reached 82,300 viewers at 8 p.m. ET, while the CBC reached an audience of 58,200 and CTV was third with 39,600 viewers. And, to prove that was no fluke, Sun News had other wins and impressive ratings, as can be seen by this quote from QMI Agency:
Later Friday, Byline with Brian Lilley tied the network record with an audience of 89,000. Sun News’ 9 p.m. ET show throttled the meager 18,000-viewer audience for CTV, and nearly knocking the decades-old CBC newscast hosted by Peter Mansbridge off its taxpayer-funded pedestal. Joining the ratings successes, Ezra Levant’s show The Source registered 57,000 viewers at 5 p.m. ET. That crushed CTV’s audience of 28,000 viewers and was within striking distance of CBC’s audience of 59,200 over the same period.
I love when the underdog wins, don’t you? It’s especially sweet after that underdog has been so unfairly treated by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Don Newman.
I am excited to learn how much stronger the prime time ratings will be at Sun News after veteran TV host Michael Coren is slotted in at 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 30.