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Cable News Coverage of the New Hampshire Primary: A Close Look at Viewer Behavior

On Tuesday, voters in the New Hampshire primary gave a win to Senator Bernie Sanders with 25.7% of the vote. Inscape.tv, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 12 million smart TVs, examined viewership of three of the special news broadcasts covering the results that night: Fox News Democracy 2020: The New Hampshire Primary, MSNBC’s New Hampshire Primary: Decision 2020 and CNN’s America’s Choice 2020: New Hampshire Primary.  

As we all know, when it comes to news consumption, many people have strong loyalty to certain outlets. Still, we wondered: What did the crossover among the Fox News, MSNBC and CNN broadcasts look like? Were at least some viewers inclined to check out other networks as the results started to roll in? 

Below, a look at crossover for the three Tuesday broadcasts. (A note about methodology: You have to do more than just flip past a station with your remote to count as a “crossover viewer” in Inscape’s system. For the data below, the minimum viewing threshold is two minutes.)

Via Inscape.tv

The highest rate of crossover: 26% of viewers of CNN’s broadcast also tuned into MSNBC’s, while 22% of MSNBC viewers also checked out CNN’s coverage. Fox News viewers, meanwhile, were less likely to stray: A paltry 7.1% checked out CNN’s coverage at some point during the night, and just 6.7% flipped over to MSNBC at some point. 

There were also notable differences in household tune-in for the primary coverage (on the heatmaps below, the darker the color, the more households in that DMA were tuning in).

Household tune-in, via Inscape.tv

Collectively, three of the top DMAs were Palm Springs, CA; Alpena, MI and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL. Looking at the top DMAs for the specific broadcasts:

  • Fox News – Glendive, MT; Panama City, FL and Ft. Myers-Naples, FL
  • CNN – Palm Springs, CA; Boston, MA (Manchester, NH) and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  • MSNBC – Palm Springs, CA; Eureka, CA and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL