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CNN’s average viewership skyrockets during months where there are major political events, and October was no different.
Lifted by the 2020 vice presidential and the presidential debates, CNN averaged 2.47 million total viewers and 709,000 adults 25-54 in prime time. Not only does the 2.5 million represent the fourth-largest average total audience across all of cable TV (only behind Fox News, MSNBC and ESPN), but it is the largest average audience in the 30-year history of the network.
In total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET), CNN averaged 1.38 million total viewers and 361,000 adults 25-54. The 1.38 million average is No. 3 across cable, ahead of ESPN and behind only Fox News and MSNBC.
CNN is finishing with fewer total viewers than MSNBC this month, but the network continues to beat its rival when it comes to drawing adults 25-54, the demographic traditionally preferred by advertisers.
Compared to September 2020, CNN was +85% in total prime-time viewers and +128% in the prime-time demo. In total day, the network was +54% in total viewers and +75% in the demo.
Compared to October 2019, which of course was not the month prior to a presidential election (but did feature a CNN Democratic debate), CNN was +98% in total prime-time viewers and +116% in the prime-time demo. In total day, CNN was +78% in total viewers and +90% in the demo.
Lastly, compared to October 2016, CNN again was up: +29% in total prime-time viewers and +1% in the prime-time demo. In total day, CNN was +35% in total viewers and +8% in the demo.
The ratings for October 2020 (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data):
- Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 2,465,000 total viewers / 709,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon.-Sun.): 1,380,000 total viewers / 361,000 A25-54
In addition, key CNN programs including the network’s morning show, New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman, and each of its shows from 4 p.m.-midnight all delivered their largest October audiences on record. This includes record October ratings for Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, Cuomo Prime Time and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.
Not only was this AC 360’s largest October audience ever in total viewers (2.15 million), but the program’s highest monthly delivery on record.
The Lead also grew the most in cable news this month at 4 p.m., increasing +61% in total viewers and +77% in the demo.
CNN’s ratings press release:
CNN HAS MOST-WATCHED PRIME TIME EVER IN TOTAL VIEWERS
CNN IS A TOP FIVE CHANNEL IN ALL OF CABLE FOR NINTH STRAIGHT MONTH
CNN Surpasses MSNBC in Prime Time, Total Day, Dayside and on Weekends in Key Demo Adults 25-54
Network Posts Robust Ratings Growth vs. Last Year
CNN hit historic ratings highs this month, with the network having its most-watched prime time ratings ever in full week (M-Su) and weekday (M-F) prime time among total viewers. In addition, key CNN programs including New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman, The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, Cuomo Prime Time and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon all had their highest October total viewer ratings on record. For the month, CNN surpassed MSNBC in prime time, total day, dayside and on weekends in the key demo 25-54. And, CNN continued to have robust ratings growth compared to a year ago, posting double and triple digits increases across all dayparts.
October marks the ninth consecutive month that CNN is a Top 5 cable network (not just news) among total viewers in total day and the seventh straight month as a Top 5 cable network in weekday (M-F) prime time.
In total day, CNN easily surpassed MSNBC (363k vs. 247k), now for the 11th consecutive month in the key demographic adults 25-54. In total viewers, CNN averaged 1.386 million, the network’s third best month on record (just after March and April of 2003). Compared to a year ago, CNN posted the most growth in cable news, increasing its audience by +78% in total viewers and +90% in the demo; FNC was up 56%/75% and MSNBC +28%/+35% respectively.
This month marks CNN’s best prime time ratings in the network’s 40-year history in total viewers in both full week prime (M-Su/2.497 million) and weekday prime (M-F/2.796 million). Among adults 25-54, CNN outperformed MSNBC in M-Su prime time (717k vs. 484k) and in weekday prime (854k vs. 630k). CNN had significant prime time ratings growth, increasing +96% in total viewers and +113% in the demo in M-Su prime and +80%106% respectively in M-F primetime compared to a year ago.
During dayside (9am-4pm), CNN beat MSNBC for the 80th straight month, the longest monthly streak on record among adults 25-54 (331k vs. 225k). This month was CNN’s second highest dayside October on record in total viewers (1.379 million), just after 2001 and third best in the demo (331k), following 2001 and 2002. Compared to a year ago, CNN is up +59% in total viewers and +69% in adults 25-54 vs. last year.
On weekends, CNN was #1 in cable news in total day with 286k, FNC followed with 271k and MSNBC had 126k in the key demo 25-54. CNN also beat FNC and MSNBC on Saturdays from 6-7am, every hour from 11am-8pm and every hour from 11pm-6pm. On Sundays, CNN was #1 in cable news every hour from 12pm-2pm, 3p-8p and from 9pm-4am. CNN outperformed MSNBC for all 24 out of 24 hours on both Saturdays and Sundays among 25-54.
October 2020 News Program Highlights:
• New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman (6-9am) had its most-watched October on record in total viewers (758k) and third highest among adults 25-54 (184k), just following 2016 and 2017. New Day’s audience was up compared to last year, increasing +31% in total viewers and +29% in the key demo. Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett (5-6am) topped MSNBC (120k vs. 95k), increasing +30% in total viewers and +22% in the demo compared to a year ago.
• The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) ranked #2 in cable news ahead of MSNBC for the eleventh straight month, attracting 399k, versus MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with 302k among 25-54. The Lead had its highest October ratings on record in both total viewers (1.724 million) and in the demo (399k). The Tapper-led program also grew the most in cable news this month at 4pm, increasing +61% in total viewers and +77% in the demo.
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer once again topped MSNBC at both 5pm (424k vs. 333k) and at 6pm (451k vs. 334k) among adults 25-54. The Blitzer-led program has now outperformed MSNBC at 5pm for the 29th consecutive month and at 6pm for 12th straight months. Sit Room had its most-watched October ratings on record at 5pm in total viewers (1.760 million) and in the demo (424k) and at 6pm as well (1.707 million/451k). The program also grew the most in cable news at 5pm vs. last year, +56% in total viewers and +76% in the demo and at 6pm, increasing +69%/+75%.
• Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) easily topped MSNBC’s The ReidOut in October among adults 25-54 (542k vs. 385k); while CNBC’s new program The News with Shepard Smith had 54k. EBOF has now topped MSNBC for 15 straight months during the 7pm time period. This is the Burnett-led program’s best October on record in both total viewers (2.001 million) and in the demo (542k). EBOF also grew the most in cable news at 7pm this month among total viewers (+74%) and was also up by the same percentage in the demo.
• Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) beat MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes for the 10th consecutive month in the key demo adults 25-54 (547k vs. 400k) this month. Not only was this AC 360’s best October ratings ever in total viewers (2.148 million), but the program’s highest monthly delivery on record. The Cooper-led program had the highest growth in cable news at 8pm in total viewers (+74%). The program also grew +75% from a year ago in the demo 25-54.
• Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) had CNN’s highest viewership this month in total viewers (2.368 million) and in the demo adults 25-54 (598k). October is the program’s second best total viewer and third best demo delivery on record. The Cuomo-led program was up the most at 9pm in cable news increasing an impressive +87% in total viewers and +86% among adults 25-54; while MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show was only up +18%/+10% and FNC’s Hannity increased +39%/+53% respectively vs. a year ago during this busy newscycle. Cuomo Prime Time also had the most growth of any M-F cable news prime time program in total viewers (+87%).
• CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) topped MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell in October (562k vs. MSNBC’s 463k) and has now outperformed MSNBC for seven of the past eight months in the demo 25-54. This is the Lemon-led program’s best October on record in both total viewers (1.997 million) and adults 25-54 (562k). Compared to a year ago, CNN Tonight had the highest growth in cable news at 10pm by far, increasing +85% in total viewers and +92% in the demo. MSNBC was up +19%/+18% and Fox +42%/61% respectively.
Victor Blackwell, Kate Bolduan, Ana Cabrera, Poppy Harlow, Erica Hill, Brianna Keilar, John King, Christi Paul, Boris Sanchez, Jim Sciutto and Fredricka Whitfield all contributed to CNN Newsroom during dayside and/or weekend coverage during October 2020.
October Weekend Program Highlights
• New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers and the demo adults 25-54 during its respective time periods on Saturdays and Sundays in October, growing double digits vs. a year ago.
• CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield and CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera ranked either #1 or #2 in total viewers and the demo during their respective time periods on Saturdays and Sundays this month, growing double to triple digits vs. last year.
• Smerconish (Sat. 9 am) ranked #2 in cable news, topping MSNBC in the key demo (274k vs. 194k). The program was up double digits compared to a year ago in both total viewers (+48%) and among adults 25-54 (+46%).
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer aired on weekends throughout October and ranked either #1 or #2 in on both Saturdays and Sundays in total viewers and adults 25-54.
• Inside Politics with John King (Sun. 8am) easily topped MSNBC in both total viewers (1.030 vs. 776k) and in the demo 25 -54 (237k vs. 113k). The King-led program was up the most in cable news in its time period, increasing +54% in total viewers and +65% among 25-54 vs. a year ago.
• State of the Union with Jake Tapper (Sun. 9am) outperformed MSNBC in total viewers (1.354 million vs. 883k) and in the demo (328k vs. 125k) this month. The Tapper-led program was also up the most in cable news during the time period, growing +48% in total viewers and +56% in the demo. At noon, SOTU ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers outperforming MSNBC (1.617 million vs. 1.086 million) and ranked #1 in the demo with 334k, ahead of FNC’s 306k and MSNBC’s 195k. The noon edition was also up the most, up +83% in total viewers and +82% in the demo.
• Fareed Zakaria GPS (Sun. 10am) also surpassed MSNBC on Sunday mornings in total viewers (1.338 million vs. 1.009 million) and among 25-54 (277k vs. 158k). The Zakaria led program was also up the most in cable news, increasing +46% in total viewers and +52% in the demo vs. last year. At 1pm, GPS was #2 among total viewers (1.017 million) and adults 25-54 (219k). The 1pm edition had impressive growth increasing +62% in total viewers and +75% in the demo.
• Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (Sun. 11am) easily surpassed MSNBC in total viewers (1.486 million vs. 1.072 million) and in the demo (302k vs. 172k) in October. The Stelter-led program about the media was up +63% in total viewers and +55% among adults 25-54.
October 2020 Presidential and VP Debates
7.508 million total viewers watched the second and final Presidential Commission Debate on CNN on October 22nd (9:04-10:37pm). Among adults 25-54, 3.019 million tuned in and 907k younger viewers (18-34). CNN easily surpassed MSNBC and CBS in total viewers and the demos. CNN ranked #2 across cable news during post-debate analysis (10:30pm-12pm) across all demos, outperforming MSNBC by double digits among adults 25-54 (+67%) and adults 18-34 (+87%) and was up 8% in total viewers. During late night coverage (1-3am), CNN ranked #1 among adults 25-54 and #2 among total viewers and 18-34.
For the VP Presidential Commission debate on October 7 (9:04-10:33pm), CNN attracted 7.705 million total viewers, 3.019 million viewers among adults 25-54 and 907k in younger viewers (18-34). CNN easily surpassed NBC, CBS, Fox (broadcast) and MSNBC. CNN ranked #1 in cable news during post- debate coverage, topping FNC and MSNBC among adults 25-54 (1.948 million, FNC followed with 1.710 million and MSNBC had 1.086 million). In younger viewers, CNN was also top rated with 514k to FNC’s 413k to MSNBC;s 179k. CNN surpassed MSNBC in total viewers (5.372 million vs. 4.947 million). During the network’s late night coverage, CNN was #1 across the board.
October Special Programming
• CNN’s 22nd global Town Hall, Coronavirus: Facts and Fears, hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta along with five former directors of the CDC aired on Saturday, 10/10 (9pm) and attracted 320k among adults 25-54 and 1.445 million total viewers, ranking #2 across cable news in both demos.
• CNN’s How The World Sees America hosted by Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 10/11 (9-10pm) average 336k in the demo and 1.746 million among total viewers. The program ranked #1 across cable news in the demo.
• CNN’s The Insiders: A Warning From Former Trump Officials hosted by Jake Tapper on Sunday, 10/18 (9-10p)m drew 315k adults 25-54 and 1.909 million total viewers. The program was ranked #2 across cable news among both adults 25-54 and total viewers.
• CNN’s Divided We Stand: Inside America’s Anger hosted by Randi Kaye on Saturday, 10/24 (10-11p) posted 371k in the demo 25-54 and 1.496 million total viewers. The program was ranked #2 across cable news among both adults 25-54 and total viewers.
CNN Original Series
CNN’s newest Original Series, First Ladies has ranked #1 in both total viewers and adults 25-54 – averaging 2.230 million viewers and 412k among adults 25-54 across its three Sunday premiere episodes (Sundays 10pm). The series is outperforming FNC by +16% in total viewers and +23% in adults 25-54 and topping MSNBC by +196%/+203% respectively. So far in 2020TD, First Ladies ranks #5 among the Top 10 non-fiction historical series on cable television.
Median Age, Reach and Cross Platform
• CNN continues to have the youngest audience in cable news in total day and prime for the sixth straight year. 2020TD, CNN reaches the largest average monthly cumulative TV audience among both total viewers (68.8 million) and adults 25-54 (23.5 million) of any cable newsnetwork, marking the 19th consecutive year on record for the network. Across platforms, CNN reaches more people in the U.S. than any other news brand across TV and digital among total people and among adults 25-54 and 18-34.
• CNN Digital viewing added a 1.9% lift (or 26k) to CNN’s P2+ 1.386 million total day TV audience for a total of 1.412 million across platforms this month. This is the highest month on record for digital average audience and multiplatform average audience.
Out of Home Lift
• 2020 to-date (through 10/18/20), CNN is averaging a +6.4% lift (or +18k) among adults 25-54 OOH viewers and a +4.3% or (or +45k) among total viewers for a total of 299k and 1.090 million, combined in-home and OOH adults 25-54 and total viewers respectively.