Fox News, MSNBC, CNN Were the Top 3 Cable Networks of the Week

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN were the top 3 networks on cable television during the week of February 24.

Lifted by its live coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, Fox News averaged 3.1 million viewers and 507,000 in the 25-54 demo during prime time hours this past week. That’s No. 1 on basic cable. The network also finished No. 1 in the Total Day daypart, delivering just under 1.8 million viewers and 312,000 in the 25-54 demo in total day. That’s according to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen.

As has been the case throughout 2020, and for a significant chunk of 2019, Hannity was the top prime time cable news program of the week. Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle finished No. 2 and No. 3 on cable news, respectively.

Carlson actually delivered the No. 1 cable telecast of the entire week in Total Viewers, 4.2 million on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Carlson’s 8 p.m. program received some assistance from President Trump’s coronavirus press conference, which began at 6:37 p.m. and continued until 7:31 p.m. ET.

Additionally, The Five knocked off MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show for the 6th consecutive week, and Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream defeated The 11th Hour with Brian Williams for the 14th straight week.

Versus the same week 1 year ago, Fox News was up double-digit percent in multiple measurements and dayparts: +27% in prime time, +20% in total day viewers, +21% growth in the news demo, during prime time and +22% in the news demo during total day.

The comparable week last year was highlighted by Trump’s Vietnam summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, plus daytime coverage of Michael Cohen’s testimony in front of Congress.

CNN  finished No. 4 among basic cable networks last week in prime time, and No. 3 in total day viewership. The network’s strong finish was aided by multiple nights of town halls, and live coverage of the South Carolina primary

CNN defeated rival MSNBC in the key Adults 25-54 demo, averaging more viewers in that demo during prime time hours and Total Day.

MSNBC took second place in average total audience last week, both in prime time and Total Day. While it might not have defeated CNN in the demos, it earned a larger audience than CNN overall, as has been the custom in recent years.

However, both CNN and MSNBC shed viewers from a year ago. MSNBC was -12% in prime time and -21% in total day viewers. The network slumped even more in the demo, -22% in prime time and -30% in total day.

CNN’s losses weren’t quite as severe. The network was -4% in prime time, -10% in total day viewers. Additionally, CNN was -9% in the prime time demo and -20% in the total day demo.

Below, Adults 25-54 numbers for cable news’ “big three,” followed by a full basic cable ranker of Nielsen-measured networks, sorted in terms of average total audience. ESPN, A&E, HGTV, History, Discovery and TLC are among the top 10 in prime time, while HGTV, A&E, ID, History, Nickelodeon, ESPN and Hallmark are among the top 10 in Total Day.

A25-54, week of Feb. 24:

  • Fox News – Prime Time (507,000) and Total Day (312,000)
  • CNN – Prime Time (320,000) and Total Day (186,000)
  • MSNBC – Prime Time (297,000) and Total Day (147,000)

Basic cable ranker: Week of Feb. 24 (Total Viewers)