Basic Cable Ranker: Week of Sept. 9

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News marked its 36th consecutive week as the most-watched basic cable network in the 6 a.m. – 6 a.m. time period. However, the network took second place in prime time behind ESPN. This trend may continue as we dive deeper into the college and Monday Night Football seasons.

FNC didn’t finish runner up when it came to the cable news landscape. Not even close. The network averaged far more viewers than CNN or MSNBC in all of the key time periods and key measurements.

On the programming front – Hannity’s 9/11 broadcast ranked the most-watched non-sports cable telecast for the week with 3.43 million total viewers.  Presentations of Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle and The Five made up 16 of the top 30 cable telecasts in total viewers.


Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream and MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams split the 11 p.m. hour, with MSNBC averaging the most total viewers in the hour and Fox News averaging the most A25-54 year-olds.

The same trend was true in the 11 p.m. hour, with Your World with Neil Cavuto finished No. 1 among A25-54, and Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace as No. 1 in total viewers.

MSNBC ranked as the third-most-watched on all of basic cable this past week, only behind ESPN and Fox News. MSNBC also beat rival CNN in the A25-54 demo during prime time. However, the network fell short to CNN in the demo across the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. time period (just barely). Additionally, the network continues to lose viewers from its impressive 2017 and 2018. Perhaps they’ll return as we approach 2020. Or perhaps not.

CNN finished the week ranked No. 12 in total prime time viewers. It still held a spot in the Top 10 in total day viewing, coming in at No. 7 by averaging 543,000 viewers across 6 a.m. – 6 a.m. It also beat MSNBC in total day among adults 25-54 (~1,000).

When compared with the same week in 2018, cable news struggled. Fox News was -6% in total prime time viewers. MSNBC was -33% in total prime time viewers, while CNN was also -38% in the same daypart. In total day, Fox was -8 %, MSNBC was -22% and CNN was -38%.

If you’re a bit stunned by the wild year-over-year declines, know that the week of Sept. 10, 2018 featured a combination of Trump controversies (more than usual), and Hurricane Florence coverage, both of which gave cable news a significant ratings bump that week.

Cable News Week of Sept. 9 (Total Viewers)
Fox News: Prime Time (2,343,000) and Total Day (1,319,000)
MSNBC: Prime Time (1,465,000) and Total Day (868,000)
CNN: Prime Time (745,000) and Total Day (543,000)

Cable News Week of Sept. 9 (Adults 25-54)
Fox News: Prime Time (313,000) and Total Day (206,000)
MSNBC: Prime Time (210,000) and Total Day (118,000)
CNN: Prime Time (176,000) and Total Day (119,000)

Basic Cable Top Five (Prime Time)

  1. ESPN (3,305,000)
  2. Fox News (2,343,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,465,000)
  4. HGTV (1,369,000)
  5. USA (1,083,000)

Basic Cable Top Five (Total Day)

  1. FNC (1,319,000)
  2. ESPN (1,112,000)
  3. MSNBC (868,000)
  4. HGTV (678,000)
  5. Investigation Discovery (618,000)

Source: Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, week of Sept. 9, 2019.