2019 Ratings: Fox News Averages Largest Prime Time Audience Ever, Is No. 1 Basic Cable Network for the Year

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel had a banner year from a ratings perspective, averaging just under 2.5 million total viewers in the prime time for 2019. That’s a network-record.

“Once again, FOX News Channel’s team of leading journalists and opinion hosts have led the network to a record-breaking ratings year as the number one network in all of cable for the fourth consecutive year,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox News Media president and executive editor Jay Wallace said in a joint statement.

Versus 2018, Fox News improved +2% in average total prime time audience, making it the only cable news network to post growth in prime time, and one of the very few basic cable networks to deliver more viewers from the prior in any measurement. However, the network saw -2% in total day viewership, and the losses were even more extreme among younger news viewers: -16% among adults 25-54 in prime time vs. 2018, and -15% in the demo in total day vs. 2018.

One can partially attribute the year-over-year losses among younger demos to 2018 having been an midterm year, a time when more casual news consumers are more likely to pay attention to TV news than they are on off-election years.

But Americans under 55 are increasingly leaving traditional broadcast and cable television more generally. Cable news, which does skew older than entertainment programming, isn’t totally immune to this trend.

Below are the final 2019 Nielsen live+same-day numbers:

  • Prime Time (Mon-Sun): 2,488,000 Total Viewers / 391,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,401,000 Total Viewers / 240,000 A25-54

Which programs stood out? No surprise, it was Sean Hannity who led the charge. His 9 p.m. program finished the year No. 1 in average total viewership and among adults 25-54.

But what was a bit more surprising was the rise of the shows around Hannity’s. Tucker Carlson Tonight was the No. 2 show on cable news for 2019, moving past MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who dropped to 3rd.

Carlson undoubtedly caused some headaches for his superiors due to incendiary on-air remarks concerning immigration. But audiences consistently tuned into his show. 3.1 million viewers on average for the year is a yearly-high for the show. Moving past Maddow in the ratings department is no small feat.

One of the network’s breakout programs for 2019 (though its no stranger to the FNC lineup) was The Five. The panel show crushed its 5 p.m. timeslot competition, averaging 2.6 million viewers and 395,000 in the 25-54 demo, ranking 5th on cable news in both categories and securing its 2nd-best year ever in average total audience.

On Saturdays, Justice with Judge Jeanine and The Greg Gutfeld Show delivered their highest-rated years in each program’s history.

Pirro, like Carlson, caused Fox News issues in 2019. Her show was bumped on 2 consecutive Saturdays in March after she said on her March 9 broadcast that Minnesota freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar is “sharia compliant” and “disloyal to the U.S. Constitution because she wears a hijab.” The decision to preempt Pirro’s show didn’t seem to negatively hurt her ratings. Having a high-profile fan in Pres. Trump promoting her opinion show on Twitter throughout the year probably helped as well.

FNC’s sibling network Fox Business finished 2019 with the 2-most-watched programs on business TV for the 3rd straight year: Lou Dobbs Tonight, and Varney & Co. That’s according to data from Nielsen.

Also in 2019, longtime FBN president Brian Jones left the network and was replaced by former Fox News morning programming exec Lauren Petterson.