January 2021 Ratings: Fox News Closes Month Strong in Prime, But Falls to 3rd for First Time Since 2001

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel finished the month of January as the third ranked cable news network, averaging fewer total viewers and adults 25-54 than CNN and MSNBC.

Want to know how rare that is?

The last time Fox News ranked third in total day viewers for a month was April 2000 and third among adults 25-54 was October 2001. The last time it ranked third in total prime time viewers was July 1999; it hasn’t been third in the prime time demo since August 2001.


Remarkable it has been that many years that Fox News finished behind both of its rivals, but it’s a testament to the power the network has earned over the years.

The network saw double digit percent declines in multiple measurements and dayparts. Compared to January 2020, Fox News was down -20% in total viewers, and -18% among adults 25-54 in the 24-hour day.

The decline wasn’t quite as severe in prime time. The network was -13% in total viewers, and -10% in the key A25-54 demo versus Jan. 2020.

January 2020 also happened to have been Fox News’ highest-rated month since November 2016, primarily driven by high ratings for its Trump Senate impeachment trial coverage.

Here are the Nielsen impressions for January 2021 (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 2,541,000 total viewers / 423,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.): 1,360,000 total viewers / 242,000 A25-54

All of that being said, Fox News closed January strong in prime time. It was the most-watched cable newser in the daypart during the week of Jan. 25 (2.6 million viewers). It’s quite likely that Fox News will finish No. 1 in February, if not among adults 25-54, then certainly in total viewers. Especially as a new Democratic administration settles in, and the wild news cycle calms down.

Additionally, not all was doom and gloom on the programming front. Tucker Carlson Tonight finished January as the second-most-watched show on all of cable news, averaging 3.6 million total viewers. Hannity was the fourth-most-watched program on cable news, averaging 3.2 million total viewers. However, both shows finished behind their CNN competition among adults 25-54. Carlson beat his MSNBC competition at 8 p.m. Hannity finished No. 3 in its time slot in the 9 p.m. time slot among adults 25-54, and No. 2 in total viewers.

Another programming tidbit worth noting: At 7 p.m., the network’s new opinion show Fox News Primetime, which was hosted separately by guest-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Maria Bartiromo, saw double-digit growth in both categories (+11% in total viewers and +28% in the 25-54 demo) since launch, notching 1.9 million viewers and 323,000 in the key demo versus the prior month. As expected, the switch from news to opinion at 7 p.m. is paying off.

Lastly, Fox News was the most-watched network in Saturday prime time (but finished runner up to CNN in the demo and total day). Jesse Watters led the way, averaging 2.2 million viewers at 8 p.m. Mark Levin was No. 1 on Sundays in total viewers, averaging 1.8 million at 8 p.m.