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How Comedy is Making Cable TV News Interesting Again.

Jon Stewart and Stephen ColbertBack in May of this year it was reported that cable TV news channel Fox news was losing viewers. Where were the viewers going? Well, nobody knows for sure, but it looks like they were going to Comedy Central to catch the news. That isn’t a joke or a typo. The shows that have become a big hit for TV viewers who want the latest in hardcore news are two of Comedy Central’s most watched: “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert. Earlier in the year Fox news shows were showing signs of slipping viewership. Total ratings for Fox news shows decreased by 10%, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to RawStory.com: “Bill O’Reilly’s viewership dropped 9%, Sean Hannity’s 6%, with Greta Van Susteren and Glenn Beck suffering the steepest losses with Van Susteren’s On the Record losing 12% of its audience and Glenn Beck sliding a whopping 17%.” The Daily Show saw an increase in viewership north of 19% during the same time period. So what’s going on here? How is it that two shows primarily about mocking politicians and breaking news stories are out performing the “real” news channels? One theory as to why these comedic news broadcasts are outperforming the more “hardcore” news stations is due to the level and type of news coverage. “The Daily Show” touches on some of the hottest and pressing issues in the news, but does so in a matter of minutes (just 22 minutes for the whole show, including a concluding segment where special guests are interviewed). The quick burst of headline news means that there’s never a boring story being broadcast. The way the shows are set up also guarantees that viewers don’t get bored, as the news is continuously… well, new. Compared with the likes of Fox News who regularly re-broadcast “breaking news” when nothing else is deemed worthy of covering. In addition to the format and short story exposure time the shows on Comedy Central air in, they also surround some of the most daunting and depressing news with quirky one-liners, cheesy special effects, and much more. If you’ve never seen an episode of either “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” I suggest you try watching at least a few clips, if not an entire episode; which you can do right now at TheDailyShow.com or ColbertNation.com. So what’s really the cause for a decline in viewership for Fox News and the increased views shows on Comedy Central are seeing? Maybe there’s no correlation here and we’re simply touching on speculation. But if you ask any of the millions of viewers who tune in, almost faithfully, to either The Colbert Report or The Daily Show, you might hear a surprising story.

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  • Edwin

    I have a feeling a big part of the shift in viewership is that Fox News doesn’t in fact have news on it. While on the other hand, Stewart and Colbert actually report on news.