2016 Election Night Sets Records for Fox and CNN; But Viewership Down Overall From 2008 Election

By Chris Ariens 

Fox News was the most-watched cable news network last night for full coverage of the 2016 election, while CNN was most-watched in the demo.

Both cable networks marked their most-watched election nights ever making the culmination of Trump v. Clinton the biggest election night ever on TV. Viewership went well beyond the prime time hours as the election was not called for President-elect Trump until 2:30 a.m. with Trump giving his acceptance speech just before 3 a.m. ET today.

More than 28 million people stayed tuned in to the big three cable networks from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. (We’ll add in the broadcast numbers when we get them.)

  • Election 2016 (7 p.m.-3 a.m.) | Total Viewers / A25-54 demo

FNC – 12.198M / 4.759M
CNN – 11.172M / 5.654M
MSNBC – 5.194M / 2.128M

In prime time, CNN was most-watched in both viewers and the demo.

  • Election 2016 (8 p.m.-11 p.m.) | Total Viewers / A25-54 demo

CNN – 13.258M / 6.655M
FNC – 12.112M / 4.638M
NBC – 11.152M
ABC – 9.236M
CBS – 8.088M
MSNBC – 5.945M / 2.368M
FOX – 4.196M

And in the crucial 2 a.m to 3 a.m. hour, Fox News was No. 1.

  • Election 2016 (2 a.m.-3 a.m.) | Total Viewers / A25-54 demo

FNC – 9.778M / 3.955M
CNN – 6.452M / 3.372M
MSNBC – 2.858M / 1.207M

Fox News peaked in the Midnight hour with 15.413 million viewers; CNN peaked at 10 p.m. with 14.022 million and MSNBC peaked with 6.833 million at 11 p.m. The three cable nets all added to the 2012 total. CNN gained the most viewers in prime time: +4 million; MSNBC added 1.27 million and Fox News gained 662,000.

All in, the four broadcast networks and three cable news networks averaged 63.99 million viewers in prime time. That’s up from 60.86 million who watched on the same networks in the 2012 election. But down from 71.5 million in 2008. Across 13 TV networks, Nielsen estimates 71 million viewers tuned in during prime time. Additional rated networks includes Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, FBN, TV One, and Lifetime, which produced a 2 and a half hour special with the hosts of The View.

It should be noted that the 2008 and 2012 elections were both called for Barack Obama by 11:30 p.m. ET.

  • Election 2012 (8 p.m.-11 p.m.) | Total Viewers

NBC – 12.12
FNC – 11.45
ABC – 10.52
CNN – 9.25
CBS – 7.92
FOX – 4.93
MSNBC – 4.67