2018 Ratings: CNN Is One of Cable’s 10-Most-Watched Networks Across Total Day

By A.J. Katz Comment

CNN was one of basic cable’s 10-most-watched networks for 2018, coming in at No. 7. with an average of 706,000 viewers across the 24-hour day (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.), per live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen.

On the downside, that 706,000 viewers figure is -9 percent from what the network drew in the 24-hour daypart in 2017 (779,000).

CNN finished No. 11 across basic cable in prime time, averaging 988,000 viewers across the 8 – 11 p.m. time period. Unfortunately for CNN, that’s -6 percent versus what it drew in prime time last year.

The year-over-year-losses among younger news viewers were even more striking. Among the key A25-54 demographic, CNN was -12 percent in prime time and -16 percent across the 24-hour day versus what it pulled in 2017.

But as you’ll see in succeeding posts, CNN is far from alone in posting year-over-year losses among younger news viewers; and despite being -16 percent in total day demo viewers, CNN still beat MSNBC in that particular category.

Plus, 2017 happened to be CNN’s most-watched year ever across the 24-hour total day (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.). Matching those 2017 ratings was going to be difficult for the network to accomplish in 2018, no matter how much free publicity the president gave the network.

Final 2018 Nielsen live+same day numbers for CNN:

  • Prime Time (Mon-Sun): 988,000 Total Viewers /  323,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  706,000 Total Viewers / 214,000 A25-54

In terms of CNN programming – The story seems to be the key A25-54 demo. CNN beat MSNBC in the demo on weekdays from 9 a.m. up until The Rachel Maddow Show, at 9 p.m.

Then there’s Cuomo Prime Time. Yes, it was always going to finish behind Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity, cable news’ two most popular hosts who also happen to share that vaunted 9 p.m. time slot. BUT, Cuomo Prime Time was CNN’s No. 1 program for 2018 in both total viewers and adults 25-54. Cuomo seems to be a welcome addition to the lineup, and a programming move that has paid off (although New Day has suffered).

CNN also has a positive story to tell on weekends.

The re-broadcast of State of the Union with Jake Tapper (noon) ranked No. 1 in cable news in 2018 for the third consecutive year among adults 25-54.  On Saturdays, CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield (1-3 p.m.) was No. 1 on Saturdays, as was CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera on Saturdays/Sundays (3-6 p.m.) in the demo.

All of CNN Original Series programming ranked No.1 in cable news on Sundays this year among adults 25-54.

Last, but far from least, is CNN’s midterm election night coverage (Nov. 6), which ranked No. 1 across all of television in the key A25-54 demo during prime time.

Nielsen Cable News Ratings for 2018 (01/01/18-12/30/18) vs. 2017 (12/26/16-12/31/17)

Prime time:

CNN: 988,000 total viewers (-6 percent); 323,000 A25-54 (-12 percent)

MSNBC: 1,802,000 total viewers (+10 percent); 352,000 A25-54 (-5 percent)

Fox News: 2,434,000 total viewers (+1 percent) ;  463,000 A25-54 (-5 percent)

Total Day:

CNN: 706,000 total viewers (-9 percent); 214,000 A25-54 (-16 percent)

MSNBC: 994,000 total viewers (+12 percent);  197,000 A25-54 (-3 percent)

Fox News: 1,425,000 total viewers (-5 percent);  282,000 A25-54 (-12 percent)

 

Here’s CNN’s press release:

CNN BEATS MSNBC IN 2018 IN TOTAL DAY FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT YEAR

2018 is CNN’S MOST-WATCHED MIDTERM YEAR EVER

CNN PRIME TIME PROGRAMS ALL POST RECORD DELIVERIES

CNN Original Series Rank #1 on Sundays

Network Ranks #8 in All of Cable

CNN had tremendous ratings success in 2018, posting record levels and surpassing MSNBC in key dayparts and hours in the demographic adults 25-54.  CNN beat MSNBC in total day for the fifth straight year (217k vs MSNBC’s 200k), during dayside for the 22nd year (210k vs. MSNBC’s 176k) and overtook MSNBC on weekends each hour among adults 25-54.  In prime time, CNN had its third-best delivery in 10 years (334k; since 2008, behind only election year 2016 and inauguration year 2017), and best delivery ever during a midterm year (see chart below). In 2018, nearly all CNN news programs drew higher demo 25-54 audiences than MSNBC, posting near or above presidential election year levels.  CNN Original Series also had banner ratings in 2018, with each series ranking #1 in cable news on Sundays in either total viewers and/or adults 25-54.

CNN Posts Record-Level Deliveries in 2018:

  • In total day (6am-6am): CNN had its third-highest year on record in total viewers and third highest since 2008 among adults 25-54 (just behind election year 2016 and inauguration year 2017).  By wide margins, this year was CNN’s most-watched midterm year ever in total day. This is also the first year in CNN’s history that the network topped 200k in the total day demo for three years in a row, including this midterm year (2018, 217k), last year’s inauguration year (2017, 257k) and the presidential election year of 2016 (234k).
  • In prime time (both M-Su, M-F, 8-11pm): CNN had its third highest prime time in 10 years (since 2008) in both total viewers and adults 25-54 (following 2016, 2017). This is CNN’s most-watched prime time midterm year on record.
  • During daytime (9am-4pm): CNN had its third-highest dayside on record in total viewers (behind 1995 and 2017) and third- highest dayside since 2001 among 25-54 (behind 2003 and 2017).
  • In the morning (6-9am): 2018 is the network’s overall second-highest morning delivery on record among total viewers (behind only 2017) and third highest since 2002 in 25-54 (behind 2003 and 2017).
  • Key CNN programs including New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman, The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon are all having either their second or third-best years on record among both demos. Cuomo Prime Time continues as CNN’s #1 program in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

 

CNN Ranks #8 in All of Cable:

Among ALL cable networks, CNN ranked #8 in total viewers in total day this year.  This marks the second consecutive year that CNN is a Top 10 cable network among total viewers in total day. In M-F prime time, CNN ranked #10 in total viewers.  In 2018, CNN had five of the Top 12 historical/non-fiction series in ALL of cable among adults 25-54, more than any other non-fiction, including the History Channel.

 

Key CNN Programs Surpass MSNBC:

Key CNN programs including Early Start with Christine Romans and Dave Briggs, CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto, At This Hour with Kate Bolduan, Inside Politics with John King (weekday), CNN Right Now with Brianna Keilar, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, New Day (weekends), Smerconish, CNN Special Reports, The Axe Files with David Axelrod, The Van Jones Show and S.E. Cupp Unfiltered all easily surpassed MSNBC this year, posting higher demo 25-54 audiences.

CNN’s Sunday morning programs including Inside Politics with John King (8am), State of the Union with Jake Tapper (9am), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10am) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11am,) all posted more viewers in the key demo 25-54 than MSNBC, ranking #2 in cable news.

On Saturdays and Sundays, CNN delivered higher demo audiences than MSNBC for 24 out of 24 hours.

CNN Ranks #1 in Cable News, Overtakes Fox and MSNBC:

State of the Union with Jake Tapper (noon) ranked #1 in cable news in 2018 for the third consecutive year with 234k, Fox followed with 228k and MSNBC had 158k among adults 25-54.  On Saturdays, CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield (1-3pm,) was #1 on Saturdays, as was CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera on Saturdays/Sundays (3-6pm) in the key demo 25-54.  All of CNN Original Series programming ranked #1 in cable news on Sundays this year among adults 25-54.  CNN’s midterm election night coverage (11-6-18) ranked #1 in ALL of television (broadcast and cable) in the key demo 25-54 during prime time. The 12th Annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute (12-9-18, 8pm) ranked #1 in cable news (153k), topping Fox (145k) and MSNBC (135k) among adults 25-54.

Median Age:

 

CNN (62 years old) continues to attract an audience that is four years younger than Fox News and MSNBC (66) in total day.  In prime time, CNN’s audience (61 years old), is five years younger than Fox and MSNBC (66). While CNN is pacing at the lowest median age in cable news, MSNBC is pacing at its oldest audience levels on record across total day and M-Su/M-F prime.

 

 

Reaches more people than any other cable news brand across TV and Digital:

CNN reaches more people than any other cable news brand across TV and digital in 2018TD. On a monthly basis, CNN reaches 171 million people across TV and digital, more than FOX News (144 million) or MSNBC (56 million).  CNN also reaches more people ages 18-34 and 25-54 than any other news brand across TV and digital, beating out cable & broadcast competitors as well as brands like New York Times, Washington Post and Yahoo News.

CNN continues to reach the largest cumulative average monthly television audience in 2018 among both total viewers and adults 25-54 of any cable news network.  (CNN 65.7 million/23.7 million, Fox 63.3m/20.8m, MSNBC 47.9m/15.7m).  This makes the network #1 every year for the 17 years on record among both demos.

CNN reached its largest digital audience in history in 2018, wrapping the year with an average of 121 million unique visitors per month and ranking ahead of all digital news competitors as #1 in multiplatform visitors, multiplatform video, mobile, millennials, global, social and politics. With the close of November, CNN ranked #1 in multiplatform unique visitors for more than two years running, mobile unique visitors for over a full year, and multiplatform video starts for more than three years in a row. For more information on CNN Digital’s traffic visit the CNN Press Room.

 

CNN 2018 News Program Highlights:

  • New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman (6-9am) had its second-highest year on record among both 25-54 (188k) and total viewers (576k), just after 2017.  This is also the overall network’s second-highest year on record in the morning daypart among total viewers (behind only 2017) and third highest among adults 25-54 since 2002 (behind 2003 and 2017).
  • The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) easily surpassed MSNBC (253k vs. MSNBC’s 232k) among adults 25-54 in 2018. This year was the Tapper-led program’s second-highest year on record among both adults 25-54 and total viewers (behind only 2017). It was also the overall network’s third-highest delivery on record among both demos and was the 18th consecutive year that CNN outperformed MSNBC in the hour.
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (5pm & 6pm) ranked #2 in cable news this month, easily topping MSNBC at 5pm for the sixth consecutive year (267k vs. MSNBC’s 234k) and at 6pm for the fifth straight year (287k vs. MSNBC’s 258k) among adults 25-54.  This is the program’s second-highest year on record in both total viewers and in the demo 25-54 at 5pm (following 2017). At 6p, this is the program’s third-highest performance on record (behind 2008 and 2017) among total viewers and second-highest year on record among adults 25-54 (behind 2017).
  • Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) beat MSNBC’s Hardball (325k vs. 304k) for the fifth consecutive year in 2018.  This is EBOF’s second-highest year on record among both total viewers (964k) and adults 25-54 (325k; just following 2017). It was also the overall network’s third-highest total viewer performance since 1995 and third-highest adult 25-54 performance on record.
  • Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) surpassed MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes for the sixth straight year in the key demo adults 25-54 (360k vs. MSNBC’s 357k).  This is both the program’s and the network’s third-highest year on record in total viewers (1.129 million) and the demo 25-54 (360k), just after 2017 and 2016.
  • Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) which launched in June, is CNN’s #1 news program for the year, averaging 1.245 million in total viewers and 392k among adults 25-54 in 2018.  Since launch, Cuomo Prime Time is up double digits among total viewers (+22%) and the demo (+12%) since the 2018 pre-launch 9pm average, the most in cable news. The Cuomo-led program has also narrowed the gap with Fox by 9 percentage points and MSNBC by 14 points in the demo and by 6/8 percentage points respectively in total viewers.  This is the network’s overall third-highest performance in the 9pm hour since 2005 among total viewers (behind only 2008 and 2017) and third-highest adult 25-54 performance since 2003 (behind 2008 and 2017).
  • CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) had its second-highest year on record in 2018 in both total viewers (1.071 million) and among adults 25-54 (367k), just after 2017. It was also the network’s overall third-highest total viewer performance on record in the 10p hour and third-highest demo performance since 2003 (both behind 2008 and 2017). At 11pm, CNN Tonight is delivering the network’s third-highest total viewer and adult 25-54 audience since 2008 (behind only 2016 and 2017).

 

 

CNN 2018 Original Series and CNN Films Highlights:

 

CNN Original Series continued to post robust ratings this year, ranking #1 in cable news on Sundays among adults 25-54:

  • The Radical Story of Patty Hearst (2/11/18-2/25/18, Sundays 9pm and 10pm): Ranked #1 among adults 25-54 across cable news on Sundays.  Every episode was top-rated among adults 25-54 across cable news in its respective hour.
  • American Dynasties: The Kennedys (3/11/18-4/15/18, Sundays 9pm): Was the most-watched CNN Original Series of all time in total viewers and the second most-watched among 25-54 (behind only The Nineties).  The series also ranked #1 among both P25-54 and total viewers across cable news in its time period on Sundays, outperforming the combined delivery of Fox and MSNBC in both demos.  Every episode also ranked #1 in both the demo 25-54 and total viewers.
  • Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History (3/11/18-4/15/18, Sundays 10pm): Ranked #1 among both 25-54 and total viewers on Sunday across cable news in its time period.
  • Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World (3/17/18-4/21/18, Saturdays 10pm): Ranked #2 in its Saturday night time period, among adults 25-54 (behind FXNC).  The series outperformed MSNBC in the hour by +20% among P25-54.
  • Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (Season 11, 4/29-6/24/18, Sundays 9pm):  Ranked #1 in cable news in the demo (484k) and #2 in total viewers (1.167million) during the full season – outperforming both Fox and MSNBC by triple digits among 25-54 (+132%; 209k, and +240%; 142k respectively). Every episode this season ranked #1 among 25-54 and 18-34 in cable news.
  • United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell (Season 3; 4/29-7/1/18, Sundays 10pm):  The Bell-led series ranked #1 in cable news, averaging 346k among 25-54 and 866k in total viewers. Every episode also ranked #1 in cable news during Season 3 among adults 25-54 and 18-34. The series outperformed MSNBC by triple digits among 25-54 (+195%; 117k), and double digits among total viewers (+53%; 565k).
  • 1968 (5/27/18-5/28/18, Sun, Mon 9pm, 10pm): Ranked #1 among adults 25-54 across cable news in its time period.  Live+7 versus Live, grew +57% among 25-54 and +42% among total viewers.
  • The 2000s Ranked #1 in cable news across its seven Sunday premiere episodes (7/8-8/19/18, 9pm) averaging 368k among adults 25-54 and ranked #2 among total viewers (864k).  The 2000s topped MSNBC in the time period by triple digits among 25-54 (+235%; 110k), and Fox by double digits (+90%, 194k). The series ranked #1 among 25-54 and 18-34 in cable news within its time period across every episode this season.
  • The History of Comedy (Season 2; 7/15-8/19/18, Sundays 10pm): Ranked #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 (378k), and #2 among total viewers (1.038mm) across its six Sunday premiere episodes. Season 2 easily outperformed MSNBC in the time period by triple digits among both P25-54 (+250%; 108k), and P2+ (+108%; 500k). Ranked #1 among adults 25-54 and 18-34 in cable news within its time period across every episode this season.
  • Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (Season 12) was #1 in cable news registering 379k in the demo 25-54 and #2 among total viewers (992k) across the full season (7 Sunday premieres; 9/23-11/11/18, 9pm).
  • This is Life with Lisa Ling (Season 5) also ranked #1 in cable news on Sundays in adults 25-54 (312k) and #2 in total viewers (798k) across the season (eight Sunday premieres; 9/23/18-11/18/18, 10pm). The Ling-led series outperformed MSNBC in the time period by triple digits among adults 25-54 (+209%; 101k), and Fox by double digits (+37%; 227k) in the demo.

 

CNN Films     

 

  • CNN Films: RBG (Monday 9/3/18) premiered at #1 in cable news in both the demo adults 25-54 (514k) and total viewers (2.3 million). The film outperformed both Fox and MSNBC in the time period among adults 25-54 (+124% and +52% respectively). The film grew an impressive +64% in Live+7 vs. Live in adults 25-54. Among ALL CNN Films, RBG ranked #2 in total viewers.
  • CNN Films: American Jail (Sunday 7/1/18) premiered at #2 in its time period among adults 25-54 (177k), outperforming MSNBC by double digits (+50%; 118k) in the demo. The film grew +11% in Live+7 vs. Live in the demo adults 25-54.
  • CNN Films: Trophy (Sunday 1/14/18) premiered at #2 in its time period in both the demo (203k) and total viewers (557k), easily ahead of MSNBC (164k/453k).  Trophy also grew +43% in Live+7 vs. Live among adults 25-54.

Out of Home (OOH) Viewing:

 

In 2018TD, CNN is averaging a +6.4% lift (or +14k) in total day among 25-54 with OOH viewers. CNN is tied with TBS for #3 with OOH viewers gained (+14k) among all reportable OOH networks, behind #1 ranked ESPN (+30k) and #2 ranked TNT (+16k).

 

Digital-to-TV Lift Viewing

2018 Year-to-date, live viewing on digital has provided a 2% lift to the CNN linear audience. Big news days for the year such as the Kavanaugh/Ford Senate hearings, former President George H.W. Bush funeral, and the State of the Union Address provided lifts as high as 9%-14%.

 

 

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