For the 2nd Consecutive Quarter, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN Were the 3 Most-Watched Networks on Cable TV

By A.J. Katz 

With Americans increasingly glued to the news this year, specifically landmark events in Q2 like the Covid-19 pandemic, wall-to-wall coverage of the police brutality protests and a presidential campaign that’s heating up, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Fox News, MSNBC and CNN were the three-most-watched networks on basic cable in total day and in prime time for the second quarter of 2020.

In fact, as we noted yesterday, each of cable news’ big three set viewership records for the second consecutive quarter. Fox News averaged an astounding 3.57 million total viewers in prime time (+6% from Q1 / +50% from Q2 ’19), and just under 2 million in total day ( +1% from Q1 ’20 / +48% from Q2 ’19). In the A25-54 demo, FNC averaged 624,000 in prime time (+7% from Q1 ’20 / +67% from Q2 ’19) and 366,000 in total day (+2% from Q1 ’20 / +61% from Q2 ’19).

CNN averaged 1.81 million total viewers in prime time, 528,000 from the prime-time demo (Adults 25-54), 1.19 million total day demo, with 335,000 in the demo during Q2 2020. CNN posted the most significant year-over-year audience growth, continuing to prove itself as a destination for big breaking news events. Compared to Q2 2019, CNN posted +137% growth in prime-time viewership and +120% growth in total day viewership, +181% growth in the prime-time demo and +150% growth in the total day demo.

Compared to the prior quarter (Q1 ’20), CNN was +27% in total prime-time viewers, +32% in total day viewers, +32% in the total day demo and +23% in the prime-time demo.

MSNBC set total viewership records of its own in Q2 2020. The network averaged just under 2 million total prime-time viewers for the quarter, 315,000 adults 25-54 in prime time, 1.21 million viewers in total day and 193,000 Adults 25-54 in total day. Compared with Q1 2020, which was MSNBC’s most-watched quarter up until now, the network was +10% in total day and +4% in prime time. The network was +7% in the total day demo, but actually -7% in the prime-time demo.

Below, the 10-most-watched basic cable networks for Q2 2020, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data.

PRIME TIME (Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (3,574,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,999,000)
  3. CNN (1,806,000)
  4. HGTV (1,266,000)
  5. TLC (1,195,000)
  6. TBS (984,000)
  7. History (954,000)
  8. Hallmark (898,000)
  9. Food Network (843,000)
  10. Discovery (843,000)

TOTAL DAY (6 a.m.-6 a.m.)

  1. Fox News (1,958,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,209,000)
  3. CNN (1,188,000)
  4. HGTV (736,000)
  5. Food Network (548,000)
  6. Hallmark (537,000)
  7. Nickelodeon (516,000)
  8. History (498,000)
  9. USA (492,000)
  10. Investigation Discovery (487,000)

Here’s the full Nielsen-measured cable network ranker, sorted by Total Viewers:

Q2 2020 Basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)

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