There is perception. There is reality. Often, the two do not intersect. Take the National Hockey League, for instance. The perception: hockey is a regional, relatively unpopular sport among the wider audience in the United States. While the NHL boasts a ravenous and loyal fan base, the league enjoys nowhere near the status of the NFL, NBA or MLB. The wide perception is the NHL is a distant fourth of the major professional leagues in the U.S.
In a different arena, Fox News is widely perceived the top cable news network in the U.S. and a powerful and influential voice in the Washington, D.C. Beltway. After all, Fox News routinely trounces its competition, usually garnering more viewers for their programming than all their competitors combined. Impressive, no doubt.
But here’s where perception and reality collide with the grace of a two-car pileup in bad weather: the NHL is more popular than Fox News.
Here’s proof: More people watched Wednesday night’s Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks than Fox News. According to overnight ratings, the game was watched by more than 3.3 million people. The O’Reilly Factor (Fox’s highest rated show), airing at the same time as the hockey game, pulled just over 3.08 million viewers. Ergo: NHL > Fox News.
You heard it here first. The least popular of the four major sports in America is more popular than Fox News.
Why am I pointing out a seemingly incongruous comparison? Why am I picking on Fox News? Because I feel it’s necessary to rein in the notion that Fox News is the most influential voice in American politics when it pulls in a mere fraction of the population on a daily basis. Fox News is no more worthy of influence with politicians than the Red Wings’ third scoring line. No, I’m not making a case for CNN or MSNBC. It’s all news porn, if you ask me. I’m merely making the quantitative case that Fox News isn’t as large and far reaching as its fanbois would lead you to believe. Loud? Oh, yes. They are loud.
But when more people tune into a hockey game than Bill O’Reilly and many probably can’t even tell you the names of the goalies, that should take some air out of the Fox News Mythos. Being loud ≠ being influential. It just means you’re loud.
I’m not here to tell you what you should or should not watch on TV. If you prefer Fox News, I don’t care. But don’t try and tell me Fox is this great and powerful media force. Not when the NHL and The Big Bang Theory re-runs—both also on cable—are reaching wider audiences at the same time O’Reilly’s yelling at someone on his show.
Bottom line: Fox News is just one, small drop in a very large bucket. Yes, it wins in its respective ratings category. But so does Jay Leno. That doesn’t mean his audience represents anything.
Oh yeah. Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford. Those are the goalies for the Red Wings and Blackhawks.