February 2021 Ratings: Fox News Returns to No. 1 in Total Prime Viewers, But Can’t Maintain 2020 Pace

By A.J. Katz 

One month after finishing in third place in prime time for the first time in 20 years, Fox News returned to No. 1 on cable news in total prime time viewers, averaging nearly 2.5 million across Monday-Sunday, 8-11 p.m. ET daypart. However, the network continues to finish in second behind CNN in the key A25-54 demographic.

In addition to averaging the largest total audience in prime time, Fox News beat MSNBC in the demo, both in prime time and across total day. FNC finished runner up to MSNBC in total viewers across the 24-hour day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.), but beat CNN in total day (and prime time) total viewers.

How did Fox News fare relative to the prior month, one chock full of breaking news events?

The network (along with its competitors) lost viewership from January, as expected. Despite moving back to first place in total prime time viewers this past month, FNC fell -3% from January (CNN and MSNBC lost a far larger percentage). FNC fell -14% in the prime time demo, -3% in total day viewers and -13% in the total day demo.

Compared to February 2020 (which was Fox News’ most-watched month ever), Fox fell far more than its competitors. The network was down -30% in total prime time viewers, -38% in the prime time demo, -32% in total day viewers and -38% in the total day demo.

Will that change in March? Will Fox return to No. 1 ranking, not only in total viewers but also in the demo, a position it had become accustomed to holding before the 2020 presidential election? We’ll see.

The ratings for February 2021 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,473,000 total viewers / 365,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,323,000 total viewers /  210,000 A25-54

Various daytime and weekday prime time programs earned the number one spot in their respective timeslots in total viewers, including America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino (9-11 a.m. ET) and The Faulkner Focus (11 a.m. ET), which were part of FNC’s new daytime lineup that started in mid-January, as well as Outnumbered (12 p.m. ET), The Five (5 p.m. ET), and Tucker Carlson Tonight (8 p.m. ET).

Fox News earned three of the top 5 spots on cable news in total viewers (with Tucker Carlson at No. 2 overall behind Rachel Maddow). Hannity came in 3rd in total viewers (5th in the demo), and The Five came in 4th in total viewers (but outside the top 5 in the demo).

Additionally, Life, Liberty and Levin at 8 p.m. was the most-watched cable news program on Sundays, averaging 1.9 million during the month of February.

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