Here Are the Most-Watched Basic Cable Networks for Aug. 2021

By A.J. Katz 

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Fox News Channel was the most-watched basic cable network in August, averaging 2.47 million total viewers in primetime and 1.42 million in total day.

No other cable net managed to average more than 1 million viewers in total day or 2 million in primetime.

Relative to the prior month (July), Fox News grew +16% in average total prime time audience and gained +18% in adults 25-54 during primetime. In total day, Fox gained +20% in average total viewers and +18% in adults 25-54.


The network benefited greatly from its live breaking news coverage of the Afghanistan conflict in the second half of the month.

MSNBC remained the second-most-watched network on basic cable for the month of August, both in total day and in primetime. However, the network lost total viewers from the previous month; -6% in average total prime time viewers and -5% in total day viewers. MSNBC beat rival CNN in average total viewers but came up short in the A25-54 demo. Relative to July, MSNBC lost -3% its primetime demo audience and -7% of its audience from the total day demo.

CNN ranked No. 7 in average total primetime viewers and No. 3 in average total day viewers for the month of August. Compared to the prior month, CNN shed -4% of its average total primetime audience, but saw growth among younger news viewers, who tuned into the network to get their fill of breaking news concerning Afghanistan. CNN posted month-to-month growth in the primetime demo (+1%), growth in total day viewers (+4%) and in the total day demo (+9%).

HGTV was the third-most-watched basic cable network in primetime for August, with USA, TLC, INSP, CNN, Hallmark Channel, ESPN and TBS rounding out the top 10 in total primetime viewers. Out of the top 10, Fox News, USA, TLC and INSP were up from July.

Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, HGTV, USA, ID, Hallmark, INSP, Food Network and History are the 10-most-watched basic cable networks for August in average total day audience. Out of the top 10, Fox News, CNN, USA, ID and INSP were up from July.

Again, this is according to live-plus-same-day data. It’s worth noting that the majority of entertainment-focused cable networks judge their viewership based on time-shifted data. News and sports tend to be exceptions.

Below, the basic cable network ranker for Aug. 2021:

Aug. ’21 Ranker (Total Viewers)