Basic Cable Ranker: Nov. 2019

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News and ESPN -two networks which possess extraordinarily-devoted viewership bases- split the basic cable ratings race for November 2019.

FNC continues to dominate in total day, averaging 1.6 million viewers across the 6 a.m. – 6 a.m. ET daypart. That’s now 41 consecutive months, according to Nielsen Media Research, that Fox News has finished a month as the most-watched basic cable network in total day.

The network’s audience was even larger than usual, lifted by live coverage of Pres. Trump’s rallies and its top-rated live coverage of the impeachment hearings.


When compared with Nov. 2018, which included a midterm election but not daytime TV coverage of an impeachment hearing, Fox News was +8% in total day viewers and +14% in total prime time viewers.

Fox News was also the second-most-watched basic cable network during November when it came to prime time.

No.1 in the prime time daypart? That would be ESPN (2.81 million).

ESPN traditionally thrives in the fall, boosted by Monday Night Football, college football, the return of the NBA, and college basketball.

The sports juggernaut was also No. 1 in November among adults 18-49 and 25-54, the demographics advertisers prefer.

Despite the top ranking, ESPN was actually -10% in prime time viewers vs. what it averaged the previous November (3.13 million).

Heading back to cable news – MSNBC and CNN had solid months on the ratings front as well.

In fact,November was one of the most-watched months of the year for MSNBC.

Not only that, but the NBCU politics-focused cable network posted record total viewer highs in total day (Monday-Sunday, 6 a.m. – 6 a.m.), dayside (Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and in Monday – Friday prime time.

The network received a significant lift from highly-rated daytime impeachment coverage (highly-rated in total viewers, that is), and a Democratic primary debate in prime time (which, while scoring a huge audience, was actually the lowest-rated debate of the 2020 cycle to-date).

Compared to Nov. 2018, MSNBC was +18% in total day viewers (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.) and +12% in total prime time viewers. The network ranked No. 2 across basic cable in total day (behind Fox News), and No.3 in prime time (behind ESPN and Fox News) for Nov. 2019.

CNN ranked No. 5 among all cable networks in total viewers in total day in Nov. 2019. This marks the second consecutive month that CNN is a Top 5 cable network and marks 22 straight months that CNN is a Top 10 cable network in total day. During weekday prime time, CNN ranked No. 5 in total viewers and No. 5 during the industry standard Monday – Sunday prime time.

Despite the Top 5 finish, CNN was flat in total day viewers (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.) and slumped to -11% in total prime time viewers vs. Nov. 2018.

Below is the Top 10 in prime time, followed by the Top 10 in total day and a more expansive basic cable network ranker for Nov. 2019.

Additionally, here’s a Nov. 2018 ranker for comparison purposes.

Prime Time Top 10 (Total Viewers)

  1. ESPN (2,813,000)
  2. Fox News (2,799,000)
  3. MSNBC (2,060,000)
  4. Hallmark Channel (1,539,000)
  5. CNN (999,000)
  6. HGTV (995,000)
  7. A&E (909,000)
  8. History (886,000)
  9. Discovery (877,000)
  10. TBS (858,000)

6 a.m. – 6 a.m. Top 10 (Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (1,592,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,208,000)
  3. ESPN (950,000)
  4. Hallmark Channel (862,000)
  5. CNN (760,000)
  6. Nickelodeon (621,000)
  7. HGTV (584,000)
  8. Investigation Discovery (570,000)
  9. Food Network (513,000)
  10. A&E (491,000)

Basic Cable Ranker: Nov. 2019 (Total Viewers)