Maryann Tobin

Fox News is now yielding considerably less influence over cable news audiences, as evidenced by a huge drop in the ratings for their top shows.

The New York Times reported today that Fox news ratings have had “some steep declines since last May. It was down about 21 percent in prime time in the 25-to-54 group.”

Fox News shows hosted by Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren are now seeing their smallest audience since mid-2008.

Ratings for MSNBC and CNN are also down.

While viewers may appear to be losing interest in getting their news from cable TV, there are also numbers that suggest the tightening of household budgets in a sluggish economy may be an additional culprit.

“The U.S. subscription-TV industry first showed a small net loss of subscribers a year ago. This year, that trickle has turned into a stream. The chief cause appears to be persistently high unemployment and a housing market that has many people living with their parents,” according to an Associated Press report cited in Oregonlive.

Therefore, it seems that Fox News and other cable TV news shows might remain a great way to reach an affluent audience, but no longer includes 83.2 million people, who may no longer have the money to pay for the luxury of cable TV.