Basic Cable Network Ranker: Week of Jan. 8

By A.J. Katz 

Networks that specialize in live content continue to deliver the largest audiences across cable television.

ESPN was the go-to cable network in prime time this past week, primarily thanks to its riveting College Football Playoff National Championship game broadcast. Per Nielsen data, The Worldwide Leader in Sports, despite all of the turmoil it’s experiencing, was +14 percent in total prime time viewers versus the comparable week in 2017 (Jan. 9).

Fox News and MSNBC finished No. 2 and No. 3 in total viewers, respectively, as each continues to benefit from their intense coverage of controversial remarks made by Pres. Trump.

Despite a strong No. 2 finish, FNC was -13 percent in total prime time viewers, and -12 percent in total day viewers versus last year.

Fox News programs, including Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Five and The Ingraham Angle, still accounted for 20 of the 40 most-watched telecasts in all of cable, while Rachel Maddow, whose show is No. 1 on cable news among adults 25-54, boosted MSNBC to significant year-over-year prime time audience growth (+49 percent).

HGTV finished No. 4 in total prime time viewers, followed by USA and its Monday Night Raw franchise, which Adweek wrote about extensively for its Jan. 15 print issue.

Moving back to cable news – CNN finished in the top 15 among total prime time viewers (No. 13 with 960,000), but was -29 percent versus the same week last year. CNN was a top 10 basic cable network in Total Day viewers (No. 7 with 702,000), but -10 percent from last year.

Here’s a look at the top 5, which includes yet another No. 1 finish for Fox News in Total Day.

Basic Cable Top 5 – Prime Time (Total Viewers)

  1.  ESPN (4,683,000)
  2.  Fox News (2,212,000)
  3.  MSNBC (1,992,000)
  4.  HGTV (1,476,000)
  5.  USA (1,269,000)

Basic Cable Top 5 – Total Day (Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (1,407,000)
  2. ESPN (1,370,000)
  3.  MSNBC (1,037,000)
  4.  Nickelodeon (951,000)
  5.  Investigation Discovery (844,000)

Moving to business television – Fox Business defeated CNBC in total Business Day viewers this past week (252,000 to 201,000), and Lou Dobbs Tonight marked 73 consecutive weeks as the most-watched show on business news TV. In addition to averaging 374,000 total viewers last week, Dobbs averaged 50,000 adults 25-54, also No. 1 on business TV.

The advertiser-friendly 25-54 demographic still belongs to CNBC. The NBCU-owned cable business network outperformed Fox Business among adults 25-54 in all relevant dayparts, including Business Day (35,000 vs. 28,000).

Below are two basic cable network rankers sorted by Total Viewers (P2+) and Adults 25-54.

Basic Cable Ranker: Week of Jan. 8 (Total Viewers)

Basic Cable Ranker: Week of Jan. 8 (A25-54)