Viewers returning to regular television-watching habits

— Viewer interest in wall-to-wall coverage of the war against terrorism appears to be fading.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, viewership for the three major all-news channels � CNN, the Fox News Channel and MSNBC � has fallen steadily, according to Nielsen Media Research.

By any measure, though, the networks are doing much better this October than they did last, with each up by double-digit percentages, in some cases triple-digit percentages.

The terrorist attacks drove viewers to the cable news networks in huge numbers the week of Sept. 11. However, with the passage of time, and few new developments in the story, viewers have switched to other programming.

The shift over the past weeks is in line with other major breaking news events, where the channels get a giant ratings pop early on, then fall back to usual levels.

Though viewership levels are receding, they're well off pre-Sept. 11 numbers.

With the exception of the week the U.S. began retaliating � when ratings spiked � viewership has declined each week since the attacks.

Throughout, CNN has been the most-watched of the three, though it also has lost some of the audience that was there for the early stages.

For the week including Sept. 11, CNN's 24-hour viewership soared to 3.3 million, according to Nielsen. But by the week of Oct. 22-28, the audience had fallen to 946,000.

For the last week of the month, CNN was up 144 percent from its average of 387,000 viewers for October 2000, but down 70 percent from the first week of the crisis.

The Fox News Channel averaged 1.75 million viewers the week of Sept. 11, but by Oct. 22-28 the number had dropped to 738,000 viewers, although that was up 201 percent from its average of 245,000 viewers on a 24-hour basis.

In the first week, MSNBC averaged 1.28 million viewers, falling to 547,000 viewers the last week of October, 176 percent ahead of last October.


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