The Fox News-CNN War: Does a Picture Pack a Punch?

ByABC News
February 2, 2007, 5:01 AM

Feb. 2, 2007 — -- If the Fox News Channel isn't threatened, why does it seem to be on the attack? It's not a question of attack, but "payback" suggests Fox, after a marquee CNN talent took a swipe at the cable news leader. Whether attack or payback, these are the issues swirling around the appearance of a provocative magazine ad placed by Fox News Network and apparently aimed at Anderson Cooper.

That's the question being raised by a provocative magazine ad placed by Fox News that appears to target CNN's Anderson Cooper and his show, "Anderson Cooper 360."

"Meet the Paris Hilton of Television News," the ad's copy reads, boldly sprayed above a rear view of a silver-haired fellow in a good suit. "Style Over Substance. Endless Hype. Media Darling."

And then comes the taunt: "And he still gets beat EVERY NIGHT BY "

A woman -- Greta Van Susteren -- and her "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren." She's usually tough as nails, but in the Fox News ad she's a vision of serenity staring out at us from the glossy pages. Some say we shouldn't be too surprised by Fox News' tactics.

"Fox News Channel early in their development decided it was going to engage in really tough, in-your-face attacks like this one," said Los Angeles Times' television columnist Scott Collins.

To be sure, there is truth in this advertising.

Susteren's "On the Record" beats Cooper's "360" in the 10 p.m. time slot. The magazine ad boasts, "#1 Show at 10PM/ET."

On Tuesday, for example, "Record" pulled in 343,000 viewers while "360" attracted 290,000.

But raw numbers don't tell the whole story, says J. Max Robins, editor in chief of Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

"Between Greta Van Susteren and Anderson Cooper, there is not a big a gap in the key demographic for advertisers -- the 25- to 54-year-old," he said.

Robins adds that "360" has gained momentum since its debut with Cooper in 2005.

"Fox News had a 174 percent advantage in the 25- to 54-[year-old] demographic then. Now that gap is about 18 percent," he said. "For the fourth month in the row, 'Anderson Cooper 360' is gaining. He's increased 29 percent in total viewers, while GV has declined 7 percent. Fox is right to say they are the leader, but there is some momentum there [for CNN]."