Fox News hit ratings turbulence after its coverage of 2020 presidential election angered a good portion of its dedicated viewer base. The network briefly struggled to fend off up and coming conservative news channel Newsmax, and ceded first place to CNN in the key adults 25-54 demo in the final weeks of the calendar year. FNC finished third behind both CNN and MSNBC for the first time in decades in January, and while it climbed back to No. 1 in total prime time viewers during February, it remained No. 3 in total day viewers and still failed to beat CNN in the key A25-54 demo.
It appears Fox has righted the ship in March, as many figured it would at some point. The network reclaimed the ratings crown in March, dominating its competition the last few weeks of the month not only in prime time among total viewers and adults 25-54, but also in the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. time period in those aforementioned measurements.
In total day, FNC garnered 1.3 million total viewers, and 207,000 A25-54 viewers in March. In prime time, the network delivered 2.4 million viewers, and 375,000 in the 25-54 demographic for the month.
CNN and MSNBC plummeted in March after attracting massive audiences early in the year. CNN notched its lowest-rated month in both total viewers and adults 25-54 since pre-pandemic February 2020 and MSNBC experienced its least-watched month among adults 25-54 in total day since August 2019.
Fox News returned to No. 1 by shedding far fewer viewers than its competition did. Despite winning across the board, the network was actually down -3% in total prime time viewers and -4% in total day viewers from February. MSNBC, on the other hand, shed -18% of its total prime time audience from February, and one quarter of its total day audience (25%). CNN, which had a superb run post-election, is now seeing some of the ratings magic wear off as the news cycle quiets down. In March, the network lost -28% of its average total prime time audience from the prior month, and -32% of its average total day audience. Fox actually grew its prime time demo audience by +3% from February, while CNN, the dominant network in the demo post-election, fell by -29% in the prime time demo, and gave up its No. 1 ranking.
Fox News, CNN and MSNBC were all down versus March 2020, which makes sense considering that was when the nation was first learning about the pandemic and shutting down.
FNC fell -34% in total prime time viewers and MSNBC fell by -19%, while CNN shed -37% of its March 2020 prime time audience. In total day, Fox fell -40% in total viewers, while MSNBC dropped -19% and CNN was -32%. Among adults 25-54, Fox News was down -45% in prime time and -52% in total day. MSNBC dropped -41% in prime time and -41% in total day. CNN lost more than half of its A25-54 audience in prime time (-53%) and -48% of the demo audience in total day.
The month of March 2021 (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data):
|PRIME TIME||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||2,403,000||1,795,000||1,209,000|
|TOTAL DAY||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||1,272,000||1,022,000||812,000|
What are the highest-rated cable news shows for March 2021, you ask? The Rachel Maddow Show was No. 1 for the full first quarter. However, Tucker Carlson Tonight appears to be back in the driver’s seat by finishing No. 1 among total viewers and adults 25-54 for the month of March. The Rachel Maddow Show took second place in March, averaging 3 million total viewers. TRMS was followed by Hannity (2,821,000), The Five (2,799,000), The Ingraham Angle (2,204,000), The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (2,044,000), Special Report with Bret Baier (1,968,000), All In With Chris Hayes (1,851,000), with Fox News Primetime (1,643,000) edging MSNBC’s The ReidOut (1,610,000) to round out the top 10 for March in total viewers.
Here’s the full cable news show ranker for March 2021, sorted by total viewers:
Among adults 25-54, Tucker Carlson Tonight took first place, averaging 521,000 viewers. Hannity finished second (443,000), followed by TRMS (425,000), The Five (380,000), The Ingraham Angle (370,000), Cuomo Primetime (351,000), Anderson Cooper 360 (333,000), Erin Burnett Outfront (289,000), CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (285,000), and Fox News Primetime (284,000) rounding out the top 10 for March in the demo.
Here’s the full cable news show ranker for March 2021, sorted by adults 25-54: