Here Are the Top Cable News Shows of Q1 2021

By A.J. Katz 

Update: Thursday, April 1 2021: After receiving updated Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, CNN’s Cuomo Primetime is the No. 1 cable news show for Q1 2021 among adults 25-54. The broadcast averaged 645,000 adults 25-54.

According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, The Rachel Maddow Show is No. 1 for the opening quarter of 2021, not just in average total audience, but also among adults 25-54. Cable television’s top-rated host hauled in an average of 3.6 million total viewers (her largest average audience ever), and 595,000 adults 25-54 per original broadcast in Q1. That’s growth from Q1 2020, when Maddow’s 9 p.m. show averaged 3 million total viewers and 515,000 demo viewers.

Tucker Carlson Tonight took second place, averaging 3.43 million total viewers in Q1, a smaller number than the program had been delivering in recent quarters. Hannity, The Five and MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell round out the top five.

Hosted by Nicolle Wallace, Deadline: White House managed to earn its largest total audience for a quarter in the program’s relatively short history, almost 2.4 million viewers per original broadcast. Deadline ascended to sixth place on cable news, the show’s highest ranking ever.

Cuomo Prime Time nabbed a spot among cable news’ 10-most-watched shows for the quarter, coming in at No. 9 by averaging nearly 2.2 million total viewers.

Five of the 10-most-watched shows of the quarter are MSNBC shows. Four are Fox News, and one is from CNN.

Here’s the rest of the top 10 for Q1, as per live-plus-same-day data.

  1. 9 p.m. / The Rachel Maddow Show: 3,604,000 / 61 telecasts
  2. 8 p.m. / Tucker Carlson Tonight: 3,427,000 / 57 telecasts
  3. 9 p.m. / Hannity: 2,996,000 / 58 telecasts
  4. 5 p.m. / The Five: 2,844,000 / 62 telecasts
  5. 10 p.m. / The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: 2,647,000 / 61 telecasts
  6. 4 p.m./ Deadline: White House: 2,382,000 / 62 telecasts
  7. 10 p.m. / The Ingraham Angle: 2,322,000 / 58 telecasts
  8. 8 p.m. / All In with Chris Hayes: 2,268,000 / 59 telecasts
  9. 9 p.m. / Cuomo Prime Time: 2,190,000 / 56 telecasts
  10. 11 p.m. / The 11th Hour with Brian Williams: 2,150,000 / 63 telecasts

Q1 2021 Cable News Program Ranker (Total Viewers)

How about the top cable news shows among adults 25-54? After all, this is a demographic that advertisers of news often focus their millions on.

As previously mentioned, Rachel Maddow averaged the largest adults 25-54 audience, as per live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen (595,000). Fellow 9 p.m. cable news show, CNN’s Cuomo Primetime had a strong quarter overall as well, hauling in average of 572,000 demo viewers, good for No. 2 on cable news.

Tucker Carlson Tonight came in 3rd in the demo, followed by his time slot competition Anderson Cooper 360.

CNN Erin Burnett Outfront ranked No. 1 in the demo at 7 p.m., and No. 5 on all of cable news.

Here’s the rest of the top 10 among adults 25-54. As you’ll see, the greatest number of shows among the top 10 in this measurement hail from CNN.

Again, this is Nielsen live-plus-same-day data:

  1. 9 p.m. / The Rachel Maddow Show: 595,000 / 61 telecasts
  2. 9 p.m. / Cuomo Prime Time: 572,000 / 56 telecasts
  3. 8 p.m. / Tucker Carlson Tonight: 567,000 / 57 telecasts
  4. 8 p.m. / Anderson Cooper 360: 533,000 / 66 telecasts
  5. 7 p.m. / Erin Burnett Outfront: 493,000 / 58 telecasts
  6. 9 p.m. / Hannity / 483,000 / 58 telecasts
  7. 10 p.m.-Midnight / CNN Tonight with Don Lemon: 452,000 / 116 telecasts
  8. 5-7 p.m. / The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer: 451,000 / 110 telecasts
  9. 4 p.m. / The Lead with Jake Tapper: 435,000 / 56 telecasts
  10. 10 p.m. / The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: 406,000 / 61 telecasts

Q1 2021 Cable News Program Ranker (Adults 25-54)

When it comes to the key hours, The ReidOut and Erin Burnett Outfront split the 7 p.m. hour. Tucker Carlson won 8 p.m., both in total viewers and edged AC360 among adults 25-54. The Rachel Maddow swept the key categories at 9 p.m. Hannity beat Cuomo in total viewers, while Cuomo beat Hannity in A25-54 viewers. CNN Tonight and The Last Word split first at 10 p.m., while the second hour of CNN Tonight and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams split first at 11 p.m.

Additionally, Morning Joe swept its Fox News and CNN morning competition in the key categories, a first for the program.

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