More Americans than usual watched cable news this month, with month-to-month growth in October primarily driven by live, breaking news coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.
Below are October 2023 Nielsen ratings for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, followed by a duo of complete Nielsen-measured basic cable network rankers.
Fox News Channel:
Fox News marked yet another month as the most-watched basic cable network in total day, and finished No. 2 in primetime in October, just -54,000 total viewers behind ESPN, which continues to be anchored by return of college football and NFL Monday Night Football.
According to Nielsen live plus same day data for the month of October 2023, Fox News Channel averaged nearly 2.12 million total viewers in primetime, 256,000 A25-54 viewers in primetime (No. 4 on cable), 1.36 million total day viewers and 174,000 A25-54 viewers in total day (No. 3 on cable).
FNC’s 2.12 million total primetime viewer average is +25% from what the channel averaged in September, and the network’s 256,000 A25-54 viewer average in primetime is +37% from what the network averaged in the measurement in September. Fox News’ 1.36 million total day viewers average is +27% from September, and the network’s 174,000 A25-54 average in total day is +33% from September.
Fox News delivered substantial month-to-month viewer growth driven by its coverage of the war. But, how did it fare versus its October 2022 performance? Not quite as well. FNC is -8% in total day viewers—and -16% in total day demo—along with a -8% decline in total primetime viewers—and a -13% decline in the primetime demo relative to the year-ago month.
Nevertheless, Fox News can still lay claim to being the top-rated cable news network in total viewers and among Adults 25-54 for a whopping 33 consecutive months.
MSNBC also gained viewers in October, with ratings gains driven by breaking news and analysis surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.
However, MSNBC didn’t post the gains that Fox News or CNN did. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data for Oct. 2023, MSNBC averaged 1.33 million total viewers in primetime, No. 4 overall behind ESPN, Fox News, MLB playoffs-carrying TBS, and +9% from the network’s total primetime viewer average in September. The network also averaged 132,000 A25-54 in primetime this month (No. 15 on basic cable), which is +14% from September. In total day, MSNBC averaged 895,000 total day viewers in October (No. 2 on all of basic cable), which is +13% from September, and 98,000 A25-54 viewers in total day, which is +17% from September, and tied with Fox Sports 1 for No. 6 all of basic cable.
Interestingly, MSNBC delivered more year-over-year growth than month-to-month growth in October 2023. Relative to Oct. 2022, MSNBC improved +13% in total primetime viewers, +16% in the primetime demo, +19% in total day viewers and +23% in the total day demo.
MSNBC’s streak of seven consecutive months ahead of CNN in the primetime demo came to an end in October, but the network extended its winning streak over CNN in total viewers to 33 consecutive months.
CNN sees more audience percent growth from major breaking news events more than its Fox News and MSNBC counterparts, and this was certainly the case in October 2023, which featured continuing, in-depth live coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, as well as the Lewiston, Maine mass shooting.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data for October 2023, CNN averaged 722,000 total viewers in primetime (No. 8 on basic cable) and 167,000 A25-54 viewers in primetime (No. 10 on basic cable). Additionally, CNN averaged 600,000 total day viewers (No. 4 on basic cable), and 124,000 A25-54 viewers in total day (also No. 4 on basic cable) CNN’s 600,000 total viewer average in total day is its largest audience in the daypart since March 2022.
CNN saw more month-to-month audience growth than its main cable news competitors, MSNBC and Fox News. When compared with September, CNN gained +32% in total primetime viewers—and +53% among Adults 25-54, +31% in total day viewers—and +46% among Adults 25-54 in total day. Compared against Oct. 2022, CNN also fared well, up +16% in total primetime viewers—and +25% in the primetime demo, +13% in total day viewers—and +17% in the total day demo.
CNN was able to move ahead of MSNBC this month in primetime Adults 25-54, but continues to capture a smaller total audience than its main rival.
FBN vs. CNBC
Driven primarily by its GOP debate broadcast, which delivered the network its largest audience since 2016 (1.82 million viewers), Fox Business averaged more total day and business day viewers than CNBC in Nielsen’s month of October. However, CNBC beat Fox Business in primetime viewing and among Adults 25-54. CNBC also averaged more viewers than Fox Business in October during market hours (9 a.m.-4 p.m., weekdays).
In its weekday primetime slate, NewsNation improves by +23% in total viewers and +38% in the A25-54 demo vs. October 2022.
October 2023 cable news network ratings (Nielsen live plus same day data)
|PRIMETIME (Mon-Sun)||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN||Newsmax||NewsNation|
|• Total Viewers:||2,116,000||1,329,000||722,000||282,000||106,000|
|TOTAL DAY (6A-6A)||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN||Newsmax||NewsNation|
|• Total Viewers:||1,358,000||895,000||600,000||197,000||73,000|
Here are the full ad-supported basic cable network rankers for October 2023: