Q2 2019 Ratings: CNN Is a Top 10 Basic Cable Network in Total Day, but Remains Stuck Behind Fox News and MSNBC During Prime Time

By A.J. Katz 

In Q2 2019, CNN was a top 10 basic cable network in total day viewers (No.8 ), and has finished among the 10-most-watched basic cable networks in total day for 12 consecutive quarters.

However, CNN finished No. 15 in prime time, far lower on the basic cable totem pole than its main cable news counterparts, Fox News and MSNBC, which finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

CNN is touting its wins over MSNBC among adults 25-54, which is understandable considering the ad community takes this demo seriously. Plus, CNN’s win came despite the fact that MSNBC earned a lift from the Democratic primary debates during the final week of the quarter.


CNN has now outperformed MSNBC for 21 straight quarters in total day in the key 25-54 demographic, though the margin of victory wasn’t exactly massive. (134,000 vs. MSNBC’s 133,000).

The network also resonated in the demo during dayside hours, beating MSNBC for the 27th consecutive quarter in A25-54, and on weekends, delivering larger 25-54 audiences than MSNBC in both total day and prime time.

While there are some positives for CNN, there are also a number of negatives, the most obvious being that it remains third place during prime time.

Second, CNN was way down vs. Q2 of last year when it came to attracting adults 25-54: -38% in prime time and -34% in total day. When it came to total viewers, CNN was -18% in prime time and -18% in total day vs. Q2 2018.

The network also saw its average median age grow in Q2 (though it remains slightly younger than Fox News and MSNBC).

However, each of cable news’ big three seem to be losing younger news viewers, and it’s not a trend unique to CNN.

Here are CNN’s ratings for Q2 of 2019:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 761,000 total viewers / 188,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  541,000 total viewers / 134,000 A25-54

Erin Burnett Outfront ranked No. 2 in the 7 p.m. hour among adults 25-54 ahead of Hardball for the fourth consecutive quarter. Outfront has now topped MSNBC for 19 of the past 21 quarters in the demo, though it still trails Fox News and MSNBC in total viewers.

The 10 p.m. hour of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon had its third-highest second quarter on record in total viewers (833,000).

Lastly – On the digital front, CNN Digital viewing added a +2% lift to CNN’s TV audience in Q2 2019.

Below is CNN’s Q2 2019 ratings press release:

CNN Tops MSNBC in Q2 Demo For 21st Straight Quarter

Despite Democratic Debates on MSNBC

Beats MSNBC Throughout Dayside; Outperforms MSNBC on Weekends; Bests MSNBC on Sunday Mornings in Demo 25-54 

Key CNN Programs Surpass MSNBC for both the Q2 and Month of June in Demo Adults 25-54

CNN Ranks as Top 10 Network in All of Cable for 12th Consecutive Quarter 

CNN Films: Apollo 11 Ranked #1 in Cable News in Key Demos

CNN topped MSNBC in Q2 demo (adults 25-54) for the 21st straight quarter in total day despite the Democratic debates on MSNBC (135k vs. 134k). This is the longest quarterly streak since 2010. Duringdayside (9am-4pm), CNN outperformed MSNBC (136k vs. 108k) ranking #2 in cable news for the 27thstraight quarter, the longest streak since 2012.  On weekends, CNN delivered higher 25-54 audiences than MSNBC in both total day (110k vs. 75k) and prime time (126k vs. 77k), and bested MSNBC for 24 out of 24 hours on Saturdays and for 23 hours on Sunday among adults 25-54 during the quarter.  For the month of June, CNN and MSNBC tied in total day among adults 25-54 (127k).  CNN surpassed MSNBC during dayside (123k vs. 94k) and on weekends in total day (109k vs. 71k) and in weekend prime time (130k vs. 73k) in the key demo adults 25-54.  All of CNN’s Sunday morning programs posted more viewers than MSNBC in the key demo adults 25-54, ranking #2 in cable news for both the 2Q and month of June.  (Of note: MSNBC aired the Democratic debates for two nights in June, elevating their ratings data for both total day and prime time for 2Q-19 and June).

CNN’s morning news program New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman (6-9am) had its third-highest second quarter on record among total viewers (460k), after 2018 and 2017.  The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) averaged 699k in total viewers and 151k among adults 25-54 during 2Q-19.  The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer beat MSNBC at 5pm (162k vs. 149k) and 6pm (168k vs. 167k) for the 20thconsecutive quarter and for the 13th straight month at 5pm. Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) ranked #2 in its hour among adults 25-54, ahead of MSNBC’s Hardball (186k vs. 182k) for the fourth consecutive quarter and topped MSNBC for the month for the first time since April.  AC 360 (8pm) registered 892k in total viewers and 214k in the demo 25-54 this quarter.  Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) was CNN’s top-rated news program in both total viewers (936k) and among adults 25-54 (230k) this quarter and for the month of June (924k/221k).  CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) had its third-highest 2Q on record in total viewers (833k) and averaged 217k among adults 25-54.

During the second quarter (April-June), CNN ranked #9 in all of cable in total day among total viewers (545k), marking the 12th consecutive quarter that the network was a Top 10 cable network.  This is the longest quarterly streak in over 24 years (since 4Q-95). For the month of June, CNN also ranked as a Top 10 cable network in total day among total viewers (#9, 534k), for the 18th straight month.  For 2Q and the month of June, CNN had the youngest audience in cable news in total day and prime time and reached thelargest cumulative TV audience (among both total viewers and adults 25-54)


Key CNN Programs Surpass MSNBC:

Key weekday CNN programs surpassed MSNBC this quarter and for the month of June, posting higher demo 25-54 audiences including:  Early Start with Christine Romans and Dave Briggs (4-6am), CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto (9-11am), At This Hour with Kate Bolduan (11am), Inside Politics with John King (noon), CNN Right Now with Brianna Keilar (1pm)and CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin (2-4pm).

On Saturdays Smerconish, CNN Newsroom with Fedricka Whitfield/Ana CabreraS.E. Cupp Unfilteredand The Van Jones Showall topped MSNBC in the key demo 25-54.  And on Sunday mornings, Inside Politics with John KingState of the Union with Jake TapperFareed Zakaria GPSReliable Sources with Brian Stelter and CNN Newsroom all posted more viewers in the key demo 25-54 than MSNBC, ranking #2 in cable news.


CNN Films:

  •  Apollo 11 (6/23/19, Sunday 9-10:48pm) ranked #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 (317k) and in younger viewers 18-34 (59k).  The film averaged 1.4 million total viewers.  Apollo 11 outperformed Fox by +109% and MSNBC by 260% in the key demo adults 25-54.


CNN Original Series:

  •   Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (4/13/19-5/18/19, Saturdays 9pm & 10pm) ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers (610k) and both demos 25-54 (137k) and 18-34 (33k) across the full season, topping MSNBC in its time period.  Among the key demographic adults 25-54, the series was up +62% vs. MSNBC in the time period.  Versus the prior four Saturdays in the time period, the Gupta-led series posted the largest growth in cable news, increasing +31% in total viewers and +12% in the demo 25-54.


  • The Redemption Project with Van Jones  (4/28/19-6/16/19, Sundays 9pm) ranked #3 in cable news in the key demo 25-54 (108k)  and among younger viewers 18-34 (26k) and averaged 413k in total viewers.  The Jones-led series outperformed MSNBC by double-digits in the demo 25-54 (+54%) in its time period this season.


  • United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell (Season 4) (4/28/19-6/16/19, Sundays 10pm) ranked #2 in the time period in the key demos 25-54 and 18-34 across cable news.  The Bell-led series delivered 198k in 25-54, 562k among total viewers, and 31k in 18-34.  United Shades outperformed MSNBC by triple digits among 25-54 (+205%) and 18-34 (+210%) and was up vs. CNN’s prior four Sundays average among adults 25-54 (+40%).



 Median Age:  CNN attracted an audience that is two years younger than Fox and three years younger than MSNBC in total day. In prime, CNN is three years younger than Fox and four years younger than MSNBC. MSNBC is tracking at its oldest yearly median age on record in both dayparts.


Cable News TV Reach:  CNN continues to reach the largest cumulative TV audience (among both total viewers and adults 25-54) of any cable news network 2019-to-date making this the 18th consecutive year on record for the network.


Multiplatform Reach**:  In April 2019, CNN reached more people than any other cable news brand across TV and digital and reached more people ages 25-54 than any other news brand across TV and digital.


Out of Home Viewing:  2Q 2019-to-date in total day, CNN is averaging a +8.6% lift (+12k) among adults 25-54.


Digital Lift:  CNN Digital viewing added a +2% lift to CNN’s TV audience in 2Q 2019.