Q1 2021 Ratings: Fox News Is Most-Watched Cable Newser in Prime Time, But No. 3 in Total Day Viewers

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel averaged the largest total audience in prime time this past quarter with roughly 2.5 million total viewers. That’s now 77 straight quarters as the leading cable news channel with total prime time viewers.

We expect Fox to dominate its competition in the average total viewers department. The network obliged in prime time, but it finished third behind both CNN and MSNBC in average total day viewers during Q1.

It was a crazy quarter for news. There was the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. 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 more. These daytime events seemed to resonate more with CNN and MSNBC’s traditional viewers than with Fox News’ base.

Compared to Q4 2020, which featured a presidential election, Fox fell -34% in total prime time viewers, -46% in the prime time demo, -28% in total day viewers and -37% in the total day demo. CNN and MSNBC also posted losses.

Versus Q1 of 2020,  Fox News experienced a similar story. While MSNBC and CNN grew, Fox fell -27% in total prime time viewers, -33% in the prime time demo, -32% in total day viewers and -38 in total day demo.

Q1 2020 was the highest-rated quarter in Fox history, featuring presidential town halls, coverage of primary debates, coverage of the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, to go with daily White House coronavirus task force briefings. Matching those numbers was always going to be tough.

Fox News won March (which we’ll further examine in a separate post later in the week), and the network’s prospects are looking good for winning April in total viewers and the demo as we enter a comparatively quiet news cycle.

Here are Fox News’ ratings for Q1 of 2021:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,480,000 total viewers / 391,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,321,000 total viewers / 221,000 A25-54

During the first quarter of 2021, FNC claimed three of the top four cable news programs in overall viewers, two of the top six in the key 25-54 demo and comprised 12 of the top 100 cable telecasts.

Tucker Carlson Tonight was the most-watched cable news show at 8 p.m., and the No. 2 show on cable news behind MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

Hannity finished No. 2 at 9 p.m. in total viewers, but third in the key demo. The same was true for Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle— No. 2 in total viewers and No. 3 in the demo at 10 p.m.

The Five was the most-watched cable news show at 5 p.m., while Special Report with Bret Baier won 6 p.m. in total viewers. Both shows lagged behind the competition among adults 25-54.

Fox News continued to thrive on Saturdays as well, led by Jesse Watters, Jeanine Pirro and Greg Gutfeld (who’s leaving 10 p.m. for weekdays at 11 p.m.).

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