Here Are the Top-Rated Cable Networks for April 2021

By A.J. Katz 

As has been the case in April’s of the recent past, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN were the three most-watched cable networks of April 2021 in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.).

According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, Fox was the only cable net to average more than 1 million viewers in the daypart (1.2 million), while MSNBC followed with a 953,000 total viewer average. CNN took third by averaging 786,000 total day viewers.

Fox News, unsurprisingly, was also the most-watched cable network in prime time, drawing more than 2.2 million viewers in the daypart. That’s down from March, but still far more than its closest competitor MSNBC, which averaged just under 1.6 million in the daypart.


Relative to the prior month (March), Fox News lost -7% of its average total prime time audience, -2% of its prime time audience from the demo, -4% total day viewers, but gained +3% of its A25-54 audience across the 24-hour day in April.

MSNBC, which took second place in total viewers this past month (both in total day and in prime time), saw a -12% dip in total prime time viewers, and a -4% drop among adults 25-54 in prime vs. the month of March. The network lost -7% of its total day audience, but actually gained +7% in the demo during total day. The gain in younger viewers during the non-prime time daypart can be linked to the network’s wall-to-wall daytime coverage of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

In April, the aforementioned CNN dropped to the No. 5 spot on cable when it came to average total prime time audience. HGTV was the third-most-watched cable network in prime time in April, and was followed by TBS. Compared to the prior month (March 2021), CNN fell -15% in average total prime time viewers, and fell -5% in the prime time demo. However, like MSNBC, it saw some improvement in total day among younger news consumers. In fact, CNN was the top-rated cable network during dayside (weekday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.) when it came to drawing adults 25-54. This is due to its coverage of the aforementioned murder trial.

ESPN, Hallmark Channel, History, TNT and Discovery round out the top 10 for April in average total prime time audience.

HGTV, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, ID, Food Network, History and TBS round out the top 10 for April in average total day audience.

Here’s the full Nielsen cable network ranker, sorted by average total audience:

April 2021 Cable Network Ranker (Total Viewers)