Media Matters celebrated Tax Day yesterday by penning an optimistic take on Glenn Beck’s seemingly unstoppable ratings success: the glory days are over. In an analysis aided by Daily Kos, Eric Boehlert asks readers, “Did Glenn Beck Just Post a New Ratings Low for 2010?” Well, if you include weekend rerun data and holidays in the study, then yes.
Boehlert argues that Beck’s program has been falling in the ratings all throughout early spring, hitting a non-vacation ratings low for the year on April 9th but on track for the month to be one of the worst in Glenn Beck history. Here’s Boehlert’s data (x-axis is dates; y-axis is total viewers):
Boehlert is fair enough to point out both an artificial peak (the day after the health care bill passing, March 22) and an artificial low (March 31st, during which Beck was on Easter break). What Boehlert doesn’t highlight is that his chart also includes weekends (Glenn Beck repeats at 3 PM Saturdays and 5 AM Sundays). Since April is only halfway done, adding in the extra four days of weekend ratings along with the March vacation dates makes the situation look significantly more dire for the program than it is.
The Daily Kos chart he uses to back up his claims, which shows a rapid decline in mid-March, is also misleading. While it attempts to be fair by giving Beck a pass on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, it does not acknowledge Beck’s Easter vacation. This artificially inflates the ratings in October and December without doing the same in late March.
And as for the day Boehlert is highlighting as the day Beckmania died, abnormal ratings usually mean some sort of disturbance in the news cycle. Let’s see what was happening on April 9th… Gay Jim Carrey, Alan Grayson terrorizing some Republicans… and Sarah Palin giving a wildly popular speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. We’ve already noted how pretaped Palin has an adverse effect on Beck’s ratings– and ratings in general– before, but Pom-Pom Palin (Dave Weigel’s term, not mine) is such a massive draw that she can take the air out of any show and siphon it over to her event. The episode of Beck competing against her for attention was also a special in-studio audience edition on young conservatives, which, combined with a busy news day, could easily deflate the program.
What Boehlert’s carefully-selected statistics don’t show is that Beck is on his way to his best summer ever, even if he suffered a bit of a dip thanks to greater conservative influences and his own temporary departure from the show. Coming off SRLC, Beck’s ratings this week during new, non-rerun programs are back up past the 2 million viewer mark. In fact, his March average was above the 2 million mark, also, 18% higher than March 2009 according to the Nielsen ratings (his ratings in the 18-35 demographic are up 23% this year, as well)– and, no, that doesn’t include the Sunday 5 AM repeat, unfortunately. And with Beck now taking aim at foreign policy (and foreign political journalists?), it’s probably a little early to claim that his ascent into media superstardom is starting to wind down.