Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are the Most-Watched Basic Cable Networks for May 2020

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN were the three-most-watched basic cable networks for May 2020, both in Total Day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) and in prime-time dayparts. Americans flocked to the networks to catch up on the wall-to-wall coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently, continuing coverage of the George Floyd police murder protests that have spread across the nation over the past week.

This past month, each network delivered significantly more viewers than in May 2019. CNN, for instance, had its most-watched May in the network’s 40-year history. Fox News remained No.1 in total day viewers for the 47th straight month, while MSNBC maintained a hold on the No. 2 ranking.

However, each of the big 3 was down from April 2020. That’s not totally shocking, considering April represented the height of the pandemic, and pandemic restrictions started being lifted in mid-May. Additionally, cable news viewership traditionally declines as we approach the summer, with people more apt to spend time outdoors instead of plopped in front of a TV.


That trend isn’t set in stone, of course, and June 2020 could be different. 2020 has been an abnormal year in general, after all.

Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers in prime-time for May 2020:

• Total Viewers: 3,441,000 1,923,000 1,652,000
• A25-54: 558,000 293,000 464,000




Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) for May 2020:

• Total Viewers: 1,877,000 1,155,000 1,091,000
• A25-54: 326,000 178,000 296,000




Lastly, the full basic cable ranker for May 2020, sorted by Total Viewers.

Basic cable ranker: May 2020 (Total Viewers)