Here Are the Top-Rated Cable News Shows for February 2021

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN can all lay claim to being “number one” in February 2021.

After finishing 3rd in January for the first time in 20 years, Fox News returned to its No. 1 spot in February in total prime time viewers. However, the network is still down from its 2020 pace.

MSNBC was the most-watched network on all of cable for February across the 24-hour day, marking a first for NBC News’ politics-focused cable outlet. That said, the network, which finished No. 2 in the demo during prime time and total day in January, dropped to 3rd place in that measurement.

CNN went from being the most-watched cable network in January, to falling behind its Fox News and MSNBC competitors in average total viewers this past February. However, the network still continues to haul in the most adults 25-54, marking 4 consecutive months at No. 1 in the measurement.

So what about the programming? MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow gave new MSNBC president Rashida Jones a nice welcome gift, averaging the largest audience on all of cable for the second consecutive month, as The Rachel Maddow Show hauled in more than 3.5 million viewers.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson marked back-to-back months at No. 2 across cable news. His program was follow by Hannity (No. 3) and The Five (No. 4). MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell rounded out the top 5 for February in average total viewers.

After a monster January, CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time fell back down to Earth, moving from No. 3 down to No. 14 in average total viewers. Anderson Cooper 360 was CNN’s most-watched show for February (No. 13).

Additionally, Fox News’ America’s Newsroom won the mid-morning time period in total viewers, and Outnumbered won the Noon slot in total viewers. MSNBC earned a fair number of time slot wins later in the day. Deadline: White House hosted by Nicolle Wallace was the most-watched show at 4 p.m. The Beat with Ari Melber was the most-watched show at 6 p.m., The ReidOut was the most-watched show at 7 p.m., and The Last Word with Brian Williams was the most-watched show at 11 p.m.

As per Nielsen data, here are the top 20 regularly-scheduled cable news shows for the month of January, sorted by average total viewers. This data does include time-shifting and excludes re-airs.

Rank Net Show Name Start Time (ET) P2+
Imps
#TC
1 MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show 9 p.m. 3,541,000 20
2 Fox News Tucker Carlson Tonight 8 p.m. 3,390,000 17
3 Fox News Hannity 9 p.m. 2,937,000 19
4 Fox News The Five 5 p.m. 2,846,000 20
5 MSNBC The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell 10 p.m. 2,553,000 20
6 MSNBC All In with Chris Hayes 8 p.m. 2,297,000 20
7 MSNBC Deadline: White House 4 p.m. 2,274,000 19
8 Fox News The Ingraham Angle 10 p.m. 2,193,000 20
9 MSNBC The ReidOut 7 p.m. 2,083,000 20
10 MSNBC The Beat with Ari Melber 6 p.m. 2,066,000 18
11 MSNBC The 11th Hour with Brian Williams 11 p.m. 2,047,000 20
12 Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier 6 p.m. 2,037,000 21
13 CNN Anderson Cooper 360 8 p.m. 1,926,000 23
14 CNN Cuomo Primetime 9 p.m. 1,915,000 24
15 CNN Erin Burnett Outfront 7 p.m. 1,833,000 19
16 Fox News Fox News Primetime 7 p.m. 1,781,000 20
17 CNN The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer 5-7 p.m. 1,621,000 35
18 CNN The Lead with Jake Tapper 4 p.m. 1,578,000 16
19 Fox News Outnumbered 12 p.m. 1,493,000 17
20 Fox News America’s Newsroom 9-11 a.m. 1,414,000 40

The Rachel Maddow Show finished No. 1 for February not only in average total audience, but it also topped the cable news landscape in February among adults 25-54 (567,000).

Tucker Carlson followed, averaging 515,000 demo viewers last month. Anderson Cooper 360 (480,000), Cuomo Prime Time (466,000) and Hannity (435,000) round out the top 5 amog adults 25-54.

CNN placed the most shows in the top 10 among adults 25-54 (5), and the most in the top 20 (8).

Additionally, CNN’s Inside Politics with John King won the Noon hour in the demo, various editions of CNN Newsroom won their respective time slots in the demo, Jake Tapper won 4 p.m., Wolf Blitzer won 6 p.m., Erin Burnett won 7 p.m., and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon was the top-rated show in the demo at 10 p.m.

Here is the top 20 for February among adults 25-54:

Rank Net Show Name Start Time (ET) A25-54
Imps
#TC
1 MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show 9 p.m. 567,000 20
2 Fox News Tucker Carlson Tonight 8 p.m. 515,000 17
3 CNN Anderson Cooper 360 8 p.m. 480,000 23
4 CNN Cuomo Prime Time 9 p.m. 466,000 24
5 Fox News Hannity 9 p.m. 435,000 19
6 CNN Erin Burnett Outfront 7 p.m. 433,000 19
7 CNN CNN Tonight with Don Lemon 10 p.m.-Midnight 392,000 35
8 CNN The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer 5-7 p.m. 390,000 35
9 MSNBC The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell 10 p.m. 376,000 20
10 Fox News The Five 5 p.m. 370,000 20
11 MSNBC All In with Chris Hayes 8 p.m. 365,000 20
12 Fox News The Ingraham Angle 10 p.m. 357,000 20
13 CNN The Lead with Jake Tapper 4 p.m. 347,000 16
14 MSNBC The ReidOut 7 p.m. 341,000 20
15 CNN Inside Politics with John King 12 p.m. 324,000 14
16 MSNBC The 11th Hour with Brian Williams 11 p.m. 311,000 20
17 MSNBC The Beat with Ari Melber 6 p.m. 301,000 18
18 CNN CNN Newsroom 9 a.m.-Noon./1-4 p.m. 301,000 99
19 MSNBC Deadline: White House 4 p.m.
20 Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier 6 p.m.

Here are the expanded show rankers for the month of February, shown in descending order from most to least total viewers, followed by the adults 25-54 audience ranker:

Feb. 2021 Cable News Show Ranker (Total Viewers)

February 2021 Cable News Show Ranker (Adults 25-54)

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