Basic Cable Ranker: Fox News Remains No. 1 in Total Day, Rachel Maddow Sets Viewership Record, CNN’s Debate Places it Among Cable’s Top 5

By A.J. Katz 

Cable news’ big 3 –Fox News, CNN and MSNBC– finished among basic cable’s top 5 networks last week, the week of Jan. 13, 2020.

FNC averaged 2.84 million total viewers in prime time, 2nd only to ESPN, which ended the week with a massive prime time audience thanks to its broadcast of the CFP National Championship featuring LSU and Clemson on Jan. 13. However, Fox News 1.62 million total viewers across total day, which was No. 1 on all of cable, including ESPN.

Sean Hannity continued to average the most total viewers of any cable news host. His 9 p.m. show, his 8 p.m. lead-in Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle, and The Five, made up 16 of the top 30 cable telecasts in total viewers.


Shannon Bream, who just signed a new contract with Fox News, defeated MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams in Adults 25-54 for the 8th consecutive week. However, Williams defeated Bream in overall viewership.

MSNBC and CNN also had ratings success last week.

Lifted by her news-making, record-breaking interview with controversial Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, Rachel Maddow was the No. 1 host on cable news last week among Adults 25-54. Her program averaged 551,000 demo viewers, knocking off prime time counterparts Hannity (536,000) and Tucker Carlson (523,000).

CNN posted year-over-year ratings growth, thanks to its Democratic debate on Tuesday, Jan. 14, one which drew 7.3 million total TV viewers. The 7.3 million total is more than what the 2 most recent Democratic debates delivered, but down from CNN’s previous debate, which took place in Oct. 2019 and drew roughly 8.6 million total TV viewers.

Compared to the same week in 2019, Fox News was +25% in total prime time audience, and +9% in the prime time demo. In total day viewership, FNC was +15% in total viewers and +4% in the A25-54 demo. Year-over-year growth in multiple measurements and dayparts without having a debate is rare.

MSNBC was -7% in total prime time viewers, -13% in total day viewers, -16% in the prime time demo and -25% in the total day demo. CNN, on the other hand, was +30% in total prime time viewers, and +13% in the prime time demo, thanks to its prime time debate to kick off the week. However, the network was % in total day viewers, -% in the prime time demo, and -% in the total day demo.

Cable News Ratings (A25-54)

  • Fox News – Prime Time (422,000) and Total Day (265,000)
  • CNN– Prime Time (403,000) and Total Day (180,000)
  • MSNBC– Prime Time (315,000) and Total Day (156,000)

Here’s how the three networks fared when compared against all of basic cable:

Basic Cable Top 5 – Prime Time (Total Viewers)

  1. ESPN (4,399,000)
  2. Fox News (2,842,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,922,000)
  4. CNN (1,507,000)
  5. TLC (1,152,000)

Basic Cable Top 5 – Total Day (Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (1,619,000)
  2. ESPN (1,232,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,037,000)
  4. CNN (738,000)
  5.  HGTV (640,000)

Basic cable ranker: Week of Jan. 13 (Total Viewers)