NCAA March Madness plus Mueller madness resulted in a wild week for cable television, and as expected, that wild week led to unique ratings on the cable news front.
Fox News finished the week No. 1 in total viewers in total day as well as in prime time, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data.
FNC ranked No. 1 in total viewers across total day for 11th consecutive week, and No. 1 in total prime time viewers for 10 consecutive weeks.
With wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA basketball March Madness led Turner Sports properties TBS and TNT to No. 2 and No. 3 rankings for the week among total viewers, finishing behind Fox News.
TBS and TNT defeated Fox News and every other basic cable network by a significant margin in the younger demos, including adults 25-54. According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen in the cable prime daypart, TBS was No. 1, averaging 946,000 A25-54 demo viewers, while TNT was No. 2, averaging 835,000 A25-54 viewers in cable prime from Monday March 18 – Sunday, March 24.
Turner’s non-scripted-focused cable network, truTV televised the “First Four” games, which led the network to a rare No. 9 ranking for the week in total viewers, and came in fourth place in prime time among adults 25-54.
Back to cable news – Presentations of Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight claimed 10 of the top 22 cable telecasts overall in total viewers. They were also the top two cable news programs of the week overall.
Notably, FNC was the No. 1 basic cable network for breaking news coverage of the Mueller report on Friday, with special coverage anchored by Special Report’s Bret Baier during the 5 p.m. ET hour, which is when the news broke.
Fox News was No. 1 in the main coverage period (5 – 11 p.m. ET), and averaged nearly 3 million total viewers and 514,000 in the demo, making it the highest Friday prime time average in both total viewers and the demo for the year.
Fox was up vs. the comparable week in 2018, +8 percent in total viewers during prime time and +2 percent in 6 a.m. – 6 a.m. Yet, the network lost traction vs. last year among adults 25-54.
The story was a bit different for CNN and MSNBC, the latter of which was No. 4 overall in total prime time viewers, and -15 percent vs. the comparable week in 2018. The network was -9 percent across total day vs. last year. When it came to the key A25-54 demo, MSNBC was -33 percent in prime time and -32 percent across total day.
CNN scored a top 10 ranking in total day viewers, and finished the week No. 13 in total prime time viewers. Versus the same week in 2018, CNN was -27 percent in prime time, -24 percent in total day, -38 percent in the prime time demo and -37 percent in the total day demo.
Below, the top 10 basic cable networks, per live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen:
Basic Cable Top 10 – Total Viewers (Prime Time )
- Fox News (2,473,000)
- TBS (1,947,000)
- TNT (1,722,000)
- MSNBC (1,721,000)
- HGTV (1,298,000)
- History (1,208,000)
- USA (1,186,000)
- Investigation Discovery (1,048,000)
- truTV (1,046,000)
- Discovery (1,020,000)
Basic Cable Top 10 – Total Viewers (Total Day)
- Fox News (1,392,000)
- MSNBC (1,029,000)
- Nickelodeon (788,000)
- TBS (759,000)
- ID (734,000)
- HGTV (731,000)
- TNT (672,000)
- CNN (622,000)
- History (564,000)
- Hallmark Channel (564,000)
Basic Cable Top 10 – Adults 25-54 (Prime Time)
- TBS (946,000)
- TNT (835,000)
- USA (563,000)
- truTV (494,000)
- AMC (446,000)
- HGTV (445,000)
- History (443,000)
- Discovery (428,000)
- Investigation Discovery (424,000)
- Fox News (415,000)
Basic Cable Top 10 – Adults 25-54 (Total Day)
- TBS (374,000)
- ID (303,000)
- TNT (301,000)
- HGTV (256,000)
- Fox News (255,000)
- USA (241,000)
- ESPN (233,000)
- Nickelodeon (229,000)
- Food Network (226,000)
- TV Land (209,000)