Egyptian crisis leads viewers to sample CNN


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NEW YORK – During its darkest period, CNN's flagship network has seen a glimmer of hope.
Viewers sampled CNN's new prime-time lineup in bigger numbers than ever before during the Egyptian political crisis and, coupled with instability at rival MSNBC, gives its executives hope they can halt an embarrassing slide.
CNN slipped past MSNBC twice in overall prime-time viewership last week and, in its high point last Wednesday, saw all three of its programs beat MSNBC, the Nielsen Co. said. That's only happened a handful of times since 2008, as MSNBC sharpened its lineup with left-of-center talk shows. Both networks lag far behind Fox News Channel, the ratings leader in cable news.
The timing is key for CNN, with Piers Morgan only a few weeks into his job as Larry King's replacement ("Piers Morgan Tonight" airs at 9 p.m. EST). The "Parker/Spitzer" 8 p.m. EST show, which began last fall, has struggled to find an audience.
"Typically, the ratings go down when interest in the big stories wane, but hopefully some of them will stay with you," said Ken Jautz, the executive in charge of CNN's U.S. network. "So it's an opportunity."
CNN retreated to third place this week, as Jautz predicted. But "Parker/Spitzer" had 103,000 more viewers Monday than it had been averaging during its first three months on the air, and Anderson Cooper's 10 p.m. EST show essentially finished in a dead heat with MSNBC's "The Ed Show" on Monday and Tuesday, Nielsen said.
The Egypt story emphasized CNN's newsgathering advantage over its rivals. Only Al Jazeera English seemed more tuned in, but few people in the U.S. can see that network on television.
"Compelling international stories we should not be shying away from," Jautz said. "We should be showcasing good international coverage, as it is a strong differentiator for us."