The Most-Watched Iowa Caucus Ever for the Cable News Channels

By Chris Ariens 

Just as the primary debates have drawn massive TV viewer interest, the first-in-the-nation vote was also a hit for the cable news networks.

According to Nielsen fast national data, all three networks had their most-watched Iowa Caucus coverage ever.

Fox News was the most-watched network, while CNN was No. 1 in the demo that matters most to news advertisers: those aged 25-54. Fox News and MSNBC both peaked between 10:30 – 10:45 p.m. ET, FNC with 5.1 million viewers and MSNBC with 2.5 million. CNN peaked between 10:45-11 p.m. ET with 4.3 million viewers. News organizations called the GOP race for Ted Cruz around 10:20 p.m. ET. The Democratic race, to Hillary Clinton, was only confirmed today, just after 1 p.m. ET.


Compared to the 2008 Iowa Caucus, the last time there was an open primary in both parties, Fox News was up +80 percent in viewers and +45 percent in the demo in prime time (8-11pm); CNN was up +69 percent in viewers and up +56 percent in the demo; and MSNBC was up +50 percent in viewers and up +1 percent in the demo. Compared to the 2000 Iowa Caucus, when Fox News averaged just 146,000 prime time demo viewers, the network is up +697 percent; CNN (270,000) is up +416 percent; and MSNBC (136,000) is up +335 percent.

Iowa Caucus coverage, Feb. 1, 2016:

Network Total Viewers (8-11pm) A25-54 (8-11pm) Total Viewers (7pm-2am) A25-54 (7pm-2am)
FNC 4.461M 1.165M 3.318M 867,000
CNN 3.730M 1.394M 2.806M 1.082M
MSNBC 1.968M 592,000 1.576M 483,000