What do the war in Ukraine, the recent Supreme Court decisions, the mass shootings happening all across the country and the January 6 hearings all have in common?
They have created a sense of news fatigue for Americans, especially bad news fatigue, which has led to a significant drop in news engagement. According to a report from Axios, “engagement with news content has plunged during the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2021—and in some cases has fallen below pre-pandemic levels.”
CNN and MSNBC are networks hemorrhaging viewers as they are down 47% and 33%, respectively, from the first half of 2021. Not helping these networks has been the loss of marquee talent consistently anchoring the 9 p.m. ET primetime slot.
MSNBC recently announced that Alex Wagner would be the new host for its 9 p.m. ET slot on Tuesdays-Fridays, taking over from Rachel Maddow, who will only host on Mondays. CNN still hasn’t decided who will fill its 9 p.m. slot. That will likely come in the fall.
On the other hand, Fox News has seen its viewership grow by 12% in the first six months of this year. In the second quarter of 2022, FNC was the most-watched network on all basic cable in primetime and total day, led by The Five.
According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, Fox News averaged 1.45 million total viewers across the 24-hour day time period (total day) in Q2. That’s -10% from Q1 2022, but +22% from Q2 of ’21. Fox News also averaged 2.27 million total viewers in primetime, which is more than -11% from Q1 ’22, but +4% from Q2 of ’21.
When comparing cable news viewership in primetime to pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the three networks are also collectively down 15% in the first half of 2022 compared to the same time period in 2019. MSNBC and CNN are down 16% and 35%, respectively, while Fox News is up slightly.
The trend of viewer disengagement towards the news may continue in the second half of 2022, as stories of inflation, a looming recession and a critical mid-term election may not appeal to many.