Basic Cable Ranker: Fox News Finishes Week at No. 1, Delivering Huge Ratings With Its U.S. Drone Strike Coverage

By A.J. Katz 

The big 3 cable newsers finished among basic cable’s top 10 networks last week. Fox News attracted especially large audiences, capitalizing on the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq early Friday, Jan. 3.

Soleimani was a powerful figure in the Middle East who headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps elite Quds Force and led Iran’s overseas operations. He also was a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members in Iraq.

FNC averaged 3.27 million total viewers in prime time, and 1.84 million total viewers across total day; No. 1 across basic cable in both dayparts.


Hannity was the No. 1 cable news program of the week in both total viewers and A25-54, and averaged its largest total audience since June 2018.  Fox & Friends delivered its highest-rated week since the 2018 midterms, The Story with Martha MacCallum secured its most-watched week since Sept. 2018, Tucker Carlson Tonight marking its most-viewed week in total viewers since Feb. 2018.

The Five averaged more viewers than the Rachel Maddow Show for the 7th consecutive week, and Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream knocked off The 11th Hour with Brian Williams for the 5th consecutive week.

So, yes, Fox News had a nice week on the ratings front.

But you can’t count out MSNBC. The NBCU politics-focused cabler was the 2nd-most-watched network on basic cable last week, averaging 1.76 million viewers in prime time, and nearly 1 million across total day.

CNN was the 3rd-most-watched basic cable network last week in total day (again, it was a big, breaking news week), but dropped to 6th in prime time viewership. Additionally, CNN beat MSNBC in the advertiser-friendly Adults 25-54 demographic. However, MSNBC beat CNN in average total viewers for the week.

Compared to the same week in 2019, Fox News posted growth. The network was +31% in total prime time audience, and +27% in the prime time demo. In total day viewership, FNC was +33% in total viewers and +26% in the A25-54 demo.

CNN and MSNBC lost viewers from the comparable week last year. MSNBC was -19% in total prime time viewers, -18% in total day viewers, -21% in the prime time demo and -27% in the total day demo. CNN was -17% in total prime time viewers, -11% in total day viewers, -18% in the prime time demo, and -20% in the total day demo.

It’s also worth noting that the 2019 CFP National Championship game was played during the year-ago week (Jan. 7, 2019). This year’s edition of the game was played a week later (Jan. 13, 2020).

On the plus side for CNN, the network should see some year-over-year audience growth this week, as its set to broadcast the next Democratic presidential debate tonight from Iowa.

Cable News Ratings (Adults 25-54)

  • FNC – Prime time (589,000) and Total Day (339,000)
  • CNN – Prime time (330,000) and Total Day (192,000)
  • MSNBC – Prime time (299,000) and Total Day (150,000)

Basic Cable Top 10 (Prime Time – Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (3,267,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,763,000)
  3. TLC (1,187,000)
  4. Hallmark Channel (1,121,000)
  5. A&E (1,119,000)
  6. CNN (1,105,000)
  7. HGTV (1,069,000)
  8. TBS (956,000)
  9. History (905,000)
  10. ESPN (873,000)

Basic Cable Top 10 (Total Day – Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (1,839,000)
  2. MSNBC (987,000)
  3. CNN (740,000)
  4. HGTV (655,000)
  5. Hallmark (592,000)
  6. Investigation Discovery (578,000)
  7. A&E (569,000)
  8. Nickelodeon (559,000)
  9. ESPN (551,000)
  10. History (513,000)

Here’s the full ranker:

Basic cable ranker: Week of Jan. 6 (Total Viewers)