July 2020 Basic Cable Ranker: Fox News, MSNBC, CNN Remain Cable Television’s 3 Most-Watched Networks

By A.J. Katz 

As has become the norm in recent months, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are once again completing a calendar month as the three-most-watched basic cable networks, both in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) and in prime time (8-11 p.m.) dayparts. Americans flocked to cable news to catch up on continued wall-to-wall coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, special coverage of the passing of longtime civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis and other breaking news events.

Each network delivered significantly more viewers this month than in July 2019. Fox News averaged 3.22 million total prime-time viewers (+32%) and 1.63 million total day viewers (+18%). MSNBC averaged 2.1 million total prime-time viewers (+39%) and 1.20 million total day viewers (+40%). CNN averaged 1.51 million total prime-time viewers (+89%) and 994,000 total day viewers (+78%), which, while No. 3, represents the most significant year-over-year audience growth of any cable news network.

In fact, CNN and Fox News each had its most-watched July in network history. FNC also remained No.1 on basic cable in total day viewers for the 49th straight month and No. 1 in total prime-time viewers for the seventh consecutive month.


Fox News even had multiple shows average more than 4 million viewers during the month of July.

Despite setting July ratings records, Fox News and CNN were down from June in all relevant dayparts and audience measurements. To be fair, June was a massive month, and Fox News was coming off a June during which it averaged a larger prime-time audience than any other U.S. TV network. Yes, that includes more viewers than the broadcasters.

MSNBC remained the second-most-watched network on basic cable television, and showed a bit of total prime-time viewership growth from June (though the network lost viewers in other dayparts).

It remains to be seen what August will bring. Will we see month-to-month losses as we move further into summer and Americans clamor to spend more time outdoors? Will some unforeseen bombshell breaking news event lift ratings? We’ll find out soon enough.

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

• Total Viewers: 3,218,000 2,084,000 1,510,000
• A25-54: 521,000 299,000 393,000




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

• Total Viewers: 1,631,000 1,197,000 994,000
• A25-54: 275,000 174,000 252,000




On the cable entertainment front, in July prime time, HGTV was the No. 4 basic cable network in Total Viewers, followed by TLC, TBS, Hallmark Channel, History, Food Network and USA rounding out the top 10.

HGTV, Hallmark, Investigation Discovery, Food Network, Nickelodeon and TLC follow cable news’ Big 3 as basic cable’s 10 most-watched networks for July in total day.

Below, the rest of the basic cable network ranker for July 2020:

July 2020 Basic Cable Ranker (Total Viewers)