It was a crazy quarter for news, and CNN, which covers breaking news like few others, benefited the most from it. There was the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. CNN’s live, continuing coverage of the event brought more viewers to the network than on any other day since its launch more than 40 years ago. Later that month, there was the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and much more.
The network’s ratings have tailed off in recent weeks as the news cycle has calmed down, but the early-quarter performance was still strong enough that CNN managed to finish Q1 2021 as the No. 1 cable network among adults 25-54, a demographic that advertisers crave, both in total day and prime time. The network hadn’t finished No. 1 on basic cable in the demo both in prime time and in total day since the second quarter of 2008.
Compared to the prior quarter (Q4 2020), CNN fell -18% in total prime time viewers, -26% in the prime time demo, -9% in total day viewers, and -15% in the total day demo. The network grew more than its competitors on a quarter-over-quarter basis, however, up +36% in total prime time viewers, +22% in the prime time demo, +50% in total day viewers and +38% in total day demo vs. Q1 2020.
CNN did finish third behind both Fox News and MSNBC in total prime time viewers. It also finished second behind MSNBC in total day viewers and saw more ratings losses in March 2021.
Here are CNN’s ratings for Q1 of 2021:
- Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,935,000 total viewers / 524,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,347,000 total viewers / 349,000 A25-54
Anderson Cooper 360, Cuomo Prime Time and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon attracted more adults 25-54 than their time slot competitors. Each show also managed to turn in its highest-rated quarter in the demo ever.
In fact, CNN won 8 p.m. among adults 25-54 for the first time since the second quarter of 2000, and Cuomo Prime Time was the second-highest-rated show across all of cable news this quarter among the demo.
On the original series front, CNN’s travel food series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy ranked No. 1 in cable news in total viewers (2.05 million), and adults 25-54 (470,000) across all six Sunday night 9 p.m. premieres. The series also currently ranks No. 4 in all of cable in total viewers and is tied for best CNN original series on record. Picking up where the late Anthony Bourdain left off.
Here’s CNN ratings press release:
CNN IS #1 IN ALL OF CABLE THIS QUARTER AMONG ADULTS 25-54
CNN BEATS FOX & MSNBC IN PRIME TIME, TOTAL DAY & DAYSIDE DURING 1Q IN DEMO
CNN Prime Time Programs All Rank #1 in Cable News, Surpassing MSNBC & Fox in Key Demo
Tapper, Blitzer, Burnett, Cooper, Cuomo and Lemon Post 1Q Ratings Highs
CNN is Up the Most in Cable News, Fox Audience is Down (A lot)
CNN Tops MSNBC in all Key Dayparts in March in the Demo; Network is #1 in Daytime for 5th Straight Month among 25-54
FIRST QUARTER 2021:
CNN had several major ratings milestones in Q1:
- CNN is #1 in all of cable in Total Day in the key demo adults 25-54
- CNN is #1 in cable news in Total Day, prime time, and dayside among adults 25-54
- Q1 is CNN’s 2nd most-watched quarter in history (just following last quarter 4Q 2020)
- All weekday prime time programs surpass Fox and MSNBC in demo, having their biggest quarters ever
- CNN’s audience is up the most in cable news – increasing high double-digits, while Fox is the only cable net to lose audience vs. a year ago
- The network’s newest Original Series Stanley Tucci: Search for Italy and Lincoln: Divided We Stand are ratings hits, ranking #1 in their time periods
- CNN’s digital platforms are having record numbers, making CNN the most watched and most used news and information brand in the world.
(Info for the month of March is below quarterly data.)
CNN is #1 in All of Cable in the key demo 25-54 and #2 in total viewers in Total Day during Q1 2021:
CNN is #1 in cable news in all dayparts in the key demo adults 25-54. The network also grew the most in cable news vs. last year:
In Total Day, CNN is #1 in all of cable and cable news in the demo (352k) for the second consecutive quarter. For the quarter, Fox ranks second (225k) and MSNBC is last (219k) among 25-54. In total viewers, CNN beats third place Fox (1.357 million vs. Fox’s 1.338 million). This quarter was CNN’s second most-watched in history in total viewers (just following 4Q 2020) and highest quarter in the demo 25-54 since 1Q 2003 (352k). CNN’s audience is up double digits compared to last year in 1Q.
In M-Su and M-F prime time, CNN is #1 in cable news for the first time in 13 years (since 1Q 2008) in the key demo (535k/627k). In weekday M-F prime, MSNBC and Fox are tied far behind with 482k among 25-54 . This is the first time CNN has beat Fox in both M-Su and M-F prime time in 13 years (since Q1 2008) in the demo. CNN has now surpassed MSNBC for five straight quarters in 25-54. CNN’s prime time audience is also up double digits.
During Dayside, CNN is also #1 in all of cable this quarter and now for the second quarter in a row in the demo. The network is also #1 in cable news in both total viewers and adults 25-54, easily topping both MSNBC and Fox in both demos. This quarter is CNN’s best dayside ratings in total viewers for a quarter (1.740 million) on record and the first time that CNN has ranked #1 since 4Q 2001. This is also the first time CNN has surpassed Fox in total viewers since 4Q 2001 and for the second consecutive quarter in the demo. CNN has now outperformed MSNBC for two straight quarters in total viewers and for 34 quarters in the demo 25-54. CNN has the most growth in cable news this quarter during the day.
Fox lost nearly a third of its total viewer and adults 25-54 audiences since a year ago (1Q 2020) across all the key dayparts and demos, registering the only declines among the three major cable news networks.
Evening/Weekday Prime Time Programming Quarterly Highlights:
7:00pm/Erin Burnett Outfront – ranked #1 in cable news the demo 25-54 for the second straight quarter with 544k, MSNBC’s was second with 346k and Fox was a distant third with 317k. In total viewers, CNN surpassed third place Fox Prime Time (2.047 million vs. 1.889 million). This was EBOF’s biggest quarter on record in both total viewers and the demo. The Burnett-led program had the most growth in cable news at 7pm, up +60% in total viewers and +44% in the demo vs. last year.
8:00pm/Anderson Cooper 360 – was #1 in cable news at 8pm for the first time in 21 years (since 2Q 2000) in the key demo adults 25-54 (611k) and was up +49% vs a year ago. FNC’s Tucker lagged far behind with 575k and was down -23% and MSNBC’s All In ranked #3 with 363k (+13%). In total viewers, the Cooper-led program outperformed third place MSNBC (2.298 million vs. 2.293 million). This quarter was AC 360’s best quarter ever in total viewers and the demo. AC 360 was the cable news program that had the highest growth in the 8pm time period in both total viewers +64% and in the demo (+49%) compared to last year.
9:00pm/Cuomo Prime Time – for the first time, Cuomo Prime Time ranked #1 in cable news at 9pm in the key demo (658k), topping second place MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (618k), while Fox’s Hannity was a distant #3 averaging 479k in the demo. This was the first time Fox dropped to #3 in the demo in 21 years (since 1Q 2000). The Cuomo-led program was the highest-rated show across all of cable news this quarter among adults 25-54. This was CPT’s highest quarter on record in both total viewers (2.497 million) and the demo (658k) and the network’s overall best 9pm rating delivery ever. Cuomo Prime Time had the most growth in cable news in all of prime time up +66% in total viewers and +50% in the demo compared to last year, Fox was down -29%/-35% respectively. CPT was also CNN’s highest-rated program in both total viewers and the demo this quarter.
10:00pm/CNN Tonight with Don Lemon – ranked #1 in cable news at 10pm this quarter with 556k, MSNBC’s Last Word was second with 408k and FNC’s Ingraham lagged in last place with 403k in the key demo 25-54. This was the Lemon-led program’s first time ever ranking #1 in cable news at 10pm for a full quarter and the program’s highest total viewer (1.891 million) and demo (556k) deliveries on record. This was the first time FNC ranked #3 in the demo 25-54 since 2Q 2001. CNN Tonight had the most growth across cable news in the time period in both total viewers (+53%) and adults 25-54 (+42%), while FNC was down -35%/-36% respectively vs. last year.
Weekday Programming Quarterly Highlights:
4:00pm/The Lead with Jake Tapper ranked #1 in cable news by wide margins averaging 438k in the key demo 25-54 this quarter, far surpassing MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace (321k) and FNC’s Your World with Neil Cavuto (214k). The Tapper-led program also easily outperformed third place Fox in total viewers (1.868 million vs. 1.320 million). This was The Lead’s highest quarter on record in both total viewers (1.868 million) and the demo (438k), while the program grew +53% in total viewers and +38% in the demo compared to a year ago.
5:00pm & 6:00pm/The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ranked #1 in cable news each hour in the key demo adults 25-54. At 5pm, Sit Room was top-rated attracting 462k among 25-54, outperforming both FNC’s The Five (402k) and MSNBC (359k). At 6pm, Blitzer-led program dominated with 460k, FNC’s averaged 325k and MSNBC’s The Beat had 307k. This was The Situation Room’s highest quarter at on record in both total viewers and adults 25-54 at 5pm and 6pm. The program was up vs. a year ago, increasing +42% in total viewers and +37% in the demo at 5pm and +36%/+27% at 6pm respectively.
9:00am-3:00pm/CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto(9-11am), CNN Newsroomwith Kate Bolduan(11am), Inside Politics with John King (12noon), CNN Newsroom with Brianna Keilar(1-3pm)and CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin(3pm) all ranked #1 in cable news during their respective time periods in the demo adults 25-54 and/or among total viewers. CNN was also up double digits compared to a year ago in both total viewers and the demo, while FNC lost more than a third of their audience each and every hour vs. a year ago.
6:00-9:00am/New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman posted its highest quarter on record in total viewers (796k) and beat FNC’s Fox and Friends in this key demo (204k vs. 203) in 1Q. This was the first time F&F ranked #3 in the demo in 21 years (since 4Q 2000). In the 8am hour, New Day was #1 in cable news in adults 25-54 with 258k, F&F was second with 251k and MSNBC’s Morning Joe ranked third with 243k. New Day had the most growth in the time period, up +36% in total viewers and +28% vs a year ago. FNC’s Fox and Friends lost -35% of its total viewer and -41% of its 25-54 audience vs. a year ago. Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett (5:00-6:00am) ranked #1 among adults 25-54 in 1Q in the time period, and also grew the most in cable news during the early morning time period, up +34% total viewers and +23% in the demo.
Weekend Quarterly Highlights:
During the weekend dayparts (S/S), CNN was #1 in Total Day among total viewers (1.036 million) and in the demo 25-54 (234k), FNC was second and MSNBC ranked third. In weekend prime time, CNN was #2 in total viewers (1.353 million) and #1 in the demo with 304k, FNC followed with 224k and MSNBC averaged 106k. On Saturdays, CNN was #1, surpassing Fox and MSNBC in total viewers from 11am-8pm and from 1am-6am and in the demo, at 6am and every hour from 9am-10pm and from 11pm-6am. On Sundays the network was top-rated from 11am-8pm and 9pm-5am in total viewers and among 25-54 at 6am, 9am and every hour from 11am-6am.
- New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell ranked either #1 or #2 in cable news in total viewers and/or adults 25-54 during its respective time periods on Sundays in 1Q 2021. CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield, Ana Cabrera, and Pam Brown ranked #1 or #2 in total viewers and the demo adults 25-54 during their respective weekend time periods. Smerconish (Saturdays 9am) ranked #1 in cable news in the coveted demo 25-54 with 234k, FNC was second with 231k and MSNBC ranked third with 140. CNN also surpassed MSNBC in total viewers (1.207 million vs. 1.119m) this quarter. The Smerconish-led program was up +39% in total viewers and +10% in the demo vs. last year.
- Inside Politics with Abby Phillip (Sundays 8am) ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers (855k) and the key demo 25-54 (191k). The program grew by double digits, increasing +23% in total viewers and +8% in the demo vs. a year ago.
- State of the Union with Jake Tapper/Dana Bash (Sundays 9am) ranked #1 in cable news in the key demo with 248k, Fox followed with 242k and MSNBC had 117k. In total viewers, the Tapper/Bash-led program averaged 1.138 million easily outperforming MSNBC’s 811k. The program was up vs. last year – increasing +26% in total viewers and +2% in the demo. SOTU was #1 at noon in both total viewers (1.488 million) and the demo (306k), increasing the most in cable news +61% in total viewers and +60% in the demo 25-54.
- Fareed Zakaria GPS (Sundays 10am) ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers (1.298 million) and the demo adults 25-54 (260k). The Zakaria-led program was also up the most, increasing +35% in total viewers and +16% in the demo. At 1pm, GPS was #1 in cable news in total viewers with 1.184 million and 240k in the demo 25-54. The program was also up the most in cable news, increasing +57% in total viewers and +79% in the demo.
- Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (Sundays 11am) ranked #1 in cable news in both total viewers and the coveted demo for the first time ever. In total viewers, the Stelter-led program attracted 1.405 million total viewers, Fox’s Media Buzz was second with 1.378 million and MSNBC was third 1.025 million. Reliable dominated in the demo as well with 301k to FNC’s 218k to MSNBC’s 146k. Compared to last year, CNNwas up +36% in total viewers and +17% in the demo 25-54. Media Buzz was down -31% in total viewers and -40% in the demo.
CNN Original Series:
- CNN’s newest Original Series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy ranked #1 in cable news in total viewers (2.053 million), adults 25-54 (470k) and among younger viewers (75k) across all six Sunday night 9pm premieres. The series also currently ranks #4 in ALL of cable in total viewers and is tied for best Original Series on record. SFI is up double digits vs. the prior 4 Sunday time period average among all three demos.
- Also new, CNN’s Lincoln: Divided We Stand ranked #1 in cable news on Sunday nights at 10pm across all six of its premieres. The series averaged 1.673 million total viewers, 324k among adults 25-54 and 69k among younger viewers (18-34). This is the network’s fourth best Original Series in total viewers. Lincoln outperformed MSNBC by triple digits and FNC by double digits in all the demos. Lincoln ranks #2 in ALL of cable in total viewers.
- So far this year (thru 3/28), CNN’s Original Series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy ranks #1 among Food and Travel non-fiction series, and Lincoln: Divided We Stand ranks #4 among all Historical non-fiction series in All of Cable among P25-54.
CNN Special Reports and Programming Highlights:
- CNN Special Report: Covid War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out reported by Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta (3/28 9-11pm) drew 360k in adults 25-54 and 1.979 million in total viewers, ranking #1 in cable news in both demos for the time period
- CNN Special Report: Price We Paid: The Economic Cost of Covid reported by Ed Lavendara (3/27 9-10pm) averaged 117k among adults 25-54 and 533k among total viewers, ranking #2 in cable news in both demos for the time period
- Afraid: Fear in America’s Communities of Color hosted by Anderson Cooper (3/26 9-10pm) delivered 185k among adults 25-54 and 757k among total viewers
- CNN Special Report: The Human Cost of Covid reported by Miguel Marquez (3/20 9-10pm) drew 78k in adults 25-54 and 431k in total viewers
- Back to School: Kids, Covid and the Fight to Reopen anchored by Jake Tapper (3/12 9-10pm) averaged 218k among adults 25-54 and 700k total viewers
- CNN Special Report: The Cult of QAnon,anchored by Anderson Cooper (2/26 11pm-12:30am) delivered 207k among 25-54, ranking #1 across cable news in the time period. Among total viewers, the special attracted 873k.
- We Remember 500,000: A National Memorial Service for Covid-19, hosted by Jake Tapper – (2/22 11pm) Delivered 150k among 25-54 and 699k total viewers.
- AC360 Special Report: Bill Gates Interview – (2/20 9pm) Delivered 160k in adults 25-54 and 911k among total viewers, ranking #2 in both demos during the time period.
- CNN Presidential Town Hall: Joe Biden (2/16) averaged 902k among adults 25-54 and 3.639 million among total viewers, ranking #1 in both demos during the time period.
- Kickoff in Tampa Bay: A CNN/Bleacher Report Special – (2/6 2:30-3pm)The Saturday afternoon special delivered 246k among adults 25-54 and 1.093 million in total viewers, ranking #1 in cable news in both demos for the time period
- The Divided States of America: What is Tearing Us Apart? hosted by Fareed Zakaria( 1/31), drew 377k in adults 25-54 and 1.699 million total viewers. The program was ranked #1 across cable news among both adults 25-54 and total viewers.
- Inside the QAnon Conspiracy anchored by Anderson Cooper (1/30), attracted 399k in adults 25-54 and 1.765 million total viewers, ranking #1 across cable news in the demo and #2 among total viewers.
- CNN Global Town Hall: Coronavirus: Facts and Fears hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (1/27), delivered 438k in adults 25-54 and 1.805 million total viewers. The program ranked # 2 among adults 25-54.
- Living History with Anderson Cooper, Doris Kearns Goodwin & Ken Burns (1/23) attracted 1.017 million total viewers and 206k in the demo, ranking #1 in adults 25-54 and #2 in total viewers.
- The King of Talk: Remembering Larry King (1/23) averaged 1.192 million total viewers and 288k in the demo, ranking #1 in 25-54 and #2 in total viewers during the time period,
- Kamala Harris: Making Historyanchored by Abby Phillip (1/17), delivered the second highest CNN Special Report ever in both total viewers (3.087 million) and adults 25-54 (702k). The Phillip-anchored hour ranked #1 in cable news during its time period in both total viewers and adults 25-54.
- The Faces of the Trump Insurrection (1/16) anchored by Anderson Cooper, delivered 2.317 million total viewers and 505k among adults 25-54, ranking #1 in cable news during the time period.
- The Trump Insurrection: 24 Hours That Shook America (1/10) anchored by Wolf Blitzer, was the most watched CNN Special Report in CNN history. The special averaged 3.319 million total viewers and 883k in 25-54, beating both MSNBC and Fox in it time period by triple digits in both demos.
Additional Quarterly News cycle Highlights:
- CNN’s coverage of The Inauguration of Joe Biden (1/20) outperformed all other networks (broadcast and cable) and was the network’s highest Inauguration Day on record among both total viewers and adults 25-54.
- CNN Presidential Town Hall: Joe Biden, moderated by Anderson Cooper – (2/16 9-10:13pm) Delivered 902k among 25-54 and 3.639 million total viewers, making it the highest CNN Joe Biden town hall among both demos and ranked #1 in adults 25-54 and total viewers for the time period.
- 2nd Trump Impeachment Senate Trial Coverage– (2/9-2/13 Tuesday-Saturday) Across the five days of the Senate impeachment trial of ex-President Trump, CNN averaged 695k in trial coverage (times vary by day) among 25-54 and 2.983 million among total viewers and ranked #1 in the demo 25-54 outperforming broadcast and cable news networks and #2 in total viewers.
- January was CNN’s most watched month ever, eclipsing November 2020 among total viewers in Total Day and dayside and was the 2nd highest in M-Su Prime (behind only November 2020).
- CNN’s coverage of the insurrection at the Capitol (1/6) was CNN’s most watched day ever among total viewers, dwarfing every cable and broadcast network. CNN reached 113.1 million total people globally across all of its platforms and touchpoints.
- CNN’s GA Senate Runoff election coverage (1/5/21) was #1 in cable news in adults 25-54
- New Year’s Eve Live w/Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen (12/31/21) delivered its largest audience in its 14-year history in both total viewers and adults 25-54 and ranked #1 across All of Cable (not just news) in both demos.
MONTH OF MARCH:
All the cable news networks are down vs. last March due to the heightened news cycle of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdown across the country last year. While CNN’s ratings are down vs. last year in March, they remain higher than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic. FNC’s ratings remain lower than the pre-pandemic period.
Fox’s ratings have shriveled compared to a year ago, declining every month vs. the year prior. Last year, FNC only experienced a slight single digit boost in Mar-20 (+9%; when the Coronavirus was labeled a pandemic) from the previous month (Feb-20) in total viewers in Total day. CNN however experienced a +75% increase, showing CNN’s command of the news audience when the pandemic first started. In M-Su Prime among total viewers last year, CNN increased +45% in Mar-20 vs. Feb-20, while FNC increased only +3%.
CNN Daypart Highlights (March 2021):
- CNN topped MSNBC in total day among adults 25-54 in March
- The network also beat MSNBC in M-Su and M-F prime time in the demo
- CNN was #1 in cable news in dayside, outperforming both MSNBC and FNC in the demo 25-54 for the 5th consecutive month
- On weekends, CNN was #1 in total day and weekend prime time in the demo
CNN Program Highlights (March 2021):
- New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman beat MSNBC’s Morning Joe in the 8pm hour in the demo. Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett topped MSNBC in its time period
- The Lead with Jake Tapper was #1 in cable news in the demo adults 25-54
- The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer topped MSNBC at both 5 and 6pm in the demo
- Erin Burnett Outfront was #1 in cable news in the coveted demo
- Anderson Cooper 360 surpassed MSNBC’s All In among 25-54
- CNN Tonight with Don Lemon outperformed MSNBC’s Last Word in adults 25-54.
- On Sundays, Inside Politics with Abby Phillip, State of the Union with Jake Tapper/Dana Bash and Fareed Zakaria GPS all ranked #2 in cable news in both total viewers and the demo 25-54 in March, surpassing MSNBC. (SOTU and GPS were #1 in the demo at noon/1pm). Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter was #1 in cable news among adults 25-54.
Median Age, Cross Platformand Reach:
- CNN continues to have the youngest audience in cable news in total day and prime. Across platforms, CNN reaches more total people in the U.S. than any other news brand across TV and digital. CNN reaches the largest average monthly cumulative TV audience (among both total viewers and adults 25-54) of any cable news network 2021-to-date, making this the 20th consecutive year on record for the network.
- CNN Digital viewing added a 2.7% lift (or average quarterly 37k) to CNN’s P2+ 1.357 million total day TV audience for a total of 1.394 million across platforms in 1Q, 2021.
Out of Home Lift:
- 2021-to-date (through 3/21/21), CNN is averaging a +4% lift (or +60k) among total viewers and a +6% lift (or +22k) among adults 25-54 OOH viewers for a total of 1.406 million and 366k, combined in-home and OOH total viewers and adults 25-54 respectively.