In Q1 2020, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN Were the Top 3 Cable Networks in Total Day

By A.J. Katz 

With Americans increasingly glued to the news this year to-date, 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 for the opening quarter of 2020.

CNN was No. 4 in prime time, finishing just behind ESPN. Fox News and MSNBC remained No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in prime time.

As we noted yesterday, Fox News had its most-watched quarter in network history, averaging an astounding 3.4 million total viewers in prime time and 1.9 million in total day. The network also posted double-digit percent growth, year-over-year.


MSNBC also had its most-watched Q1 in Total Day in netwrk. Compared with Q1 2019, which was MSNBC’s most-watched quarter up until now, the network was +1% in total day, and up >1% in total prime time viewership.

CNN posted significant year-over-year audience growth of its own, continuing to prove itself as a destination for big events. Compared to Q1 2019, CNN posted  +35% growth in prime time viewership and +26% growth in total day viewership.

This growth was most certainly driven by the unprecedented nature of the current cycle, including an impeachment trial and presidential primary programming, events which are bound to bring traditionally less ardent cable news viewers into the fold.

Below, the 10-most-watched basic cable networks for Q1 2020, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data.

PRIME TIME (Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (3,387,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,928,000)
  3. ESPN (1,469,000)
  4. CNN (1,427,000)
  5. HGTV (1,147,000)
  6. TLC (1,080,000)
  7. A&E (1,055,000)
  8. Hallmark Channel (1,019,000)
  9. History (1,015,000)
  10. TNT (997,000)

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

  1. Fox News (1,930,000)
  2. MSNBC (1,095,000)
  3. CNN (901,000)
  4. HGTV (684,000)
  5. ESPN (657,000)
  6. Hallmark (572,000)
  7. Nickelodeon (563,000)
  8. Investigation Discovery (555,000)
  9. A&E (543,000)
  10. History (525,000)

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

Basic Cable Ranker: Q1 2020 (Total Viewers)