Q3 2019 Ratings: The Advertiser-Preferred Demographic, Adults 25-54 Flocked to CNN This Past Quarter

By A.J. Katz Comment

With an assist from its two-night Democratic primary debate at the end of July/start of August, CNN was the second-most-watched cable news network among adults 25-54 this past quarter, ahead of rival MSNBC.

CNN finished ahead of its rival not only on weekday afternoons and evenings in the demo, but also on weekends.

Q3 2019 also represents the first time CNN has topped MSNBC in the prime time demo during a quarter since Pres. Trump’s inauguration (Q1 2017). This past Q3 also marks CNN’s third-most-watched Q3 since 2008 in total viewers, only behind 2017 and 2016. The network also averaged its largest Q3 audience in weekday prime time daypart since 2005.

Additionally, CNN remained among basic cable’s 10-most-watched networks during Q3. In fact, it marked 13 straight quarters as a top 10 basic cable network in total day, finishing No. 7 this past quarter.  

Compared with Q3 of last year, CNN was +1% in total prime time viewers. No other network was able to post year-over-year growth in any of the relevant dayparts. It’s fair to chalk that up to the debates, but slight growth is still growth! Plus, there was quarter-to-quarter growth.

Not all was positive, as you might have guessed. CNN was a whopping -20% in the prime time demo, -14% in total day viewers and -31% in the total day demo vs. Q3 of last year.

That two-night Democratic primary wasn’t able to make up for everything.

Additionally, CNN continues to average smaller total audiences than its two main competitors, MSNBC and Fox News, and finished behind Fox News in all relevant measurements.

The ratings for Q3, 2019 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,037,000 total viewers / 268,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 624,000 total viewers / 148,000 A25-54

On the programming front – The Lead with Jake Tapper ranked No. 2 in the 4 p.m. time slot among adults 25-54, finishing ahead of MSNBC but behind Fox News. Tapper has finished No. 2 in the demo for 10 of the past 12 quarters now.

The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (5 p.m.), Erin Burnett Outfront and Anderson Cooper 360 also finished ahead of MSNBC in the demo. Cuomo Prime Time, hosted by Chris Cuomo, took third place in the cutthroat 9 p.m. timeslot and was down vs. Q3 2018. However, Cuomo Prime Time remains CNN’s No. 1 program both among adults 25-54 and total viewers.

Here’s CNN’s press release:

CNN BEATS MSNBC IN PRIME TIME DURING 3Q 2019 IN DEMO 25-54

 

CNN ALSO OUTPERFORMS MSNBC IN TOTAL DAY, DAYSIDE AND WEEKENDS

 

Ranks as a Top 10 Network in All of Cable for 13th Straight Quarter

 

In September, CNN Surpasses MSNBC in Total Day, Dayside and Weekends in Key Demo 25-54

 

CNN surpassed MSNBC across all day parts including prime time, total day, dayside and on weekends, in the key demo adults 25-54 during the 3Q that ended on Sunday. During prime time (weekday M-F, 8-11pm), CNN beat MSNBC (317k vs. 294k) as well as during M-Su prime time with 278k vs. 235k among adults 25-54.  This is the first time that CNN has topped MSNBC in prime time (both M-F/M-Su) during a quarter since the inauguration (1Q 2017). This is CNN’s third most-watched 3Q M-Su prime time since 2008 among total viewers (behind 2016 and 2017), and third-highest since 2005 during M-F prime time.

 

In total day, CNN also easily outperformed MSNBC in the key demo adults 25-54 (150k vs. MSNBC’s 129k) this quarter. CNN has now topped MSNBC for 21 of 22 quarters, the longest quarterly streak since 2Q 2010. During dayside (9am-4pm), CNN dominated MSNBC for the 28th straight quarter in the coveted demographic adults 25-54 (138k vs. MSNBC’s 111k).

 

CNN also topped MSNBC on weekends in total day and prime time among both total viewers and adults 25-54 this quarter.  In weekend total day, CNN averaged 536k vs. MSNBC’s 519k in total viewers and 127k vs. MSNBC’s 80k among adults 25-54.  In weekend prime time, CNN posted 669k vs. MSNBC’s 650k among total viewers and 182k vs. MSNBC’s 89k in 25-54.

 

Among ALL cable networks, CNN ranked #7 in total viewers in total day this quarter.  This marks the 13th straight quarter and longest quarterly streak in over 22 years (since 4Q 1995) that CNN is a Top 10 cable network among total viewers in total day. In M-F prime time, CNN ranked #6 in total viewers.  All three cable news networks are down this quarter vs. a year ago.

 

Third Quarter News Programming Highlights:

 

  • The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) ranked #2 in cable news among adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House (163k vs. 159k), now outperforming MSNBC for 10 of the past 12 quarters.
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ranked #2 at both 5pm (177k vs. 143k) and 6pm (192k vs, 172k) among adults 25-54, ahead of MSNBC for the 21st consecutive quarter.
  • Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) easily beat MSNBC’s Hardball this quarter, ranking #2 in cable news during its hour among adults 25-54 (209k vs. 189k).   EBOF has now outperformed MSNBC for the fifth straight quarter and for 10 out of the past 12 quarters.
  • Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) – bested MSNBC to rank #2 in cable news this quarter (234k vs. 233k). AC360 has now outperformed MSNBC for eight of the past 12 quarters.
  • Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) was CNN’s #1 news program in both adults 25-54 (262k) and total viewers (1.062 million) this quarter.  Cuomo delivered the network’s third-highest 9pm 3Q viewership since 2009 in total viewers (following 2018 and 2017).
  • CNN Tonight with Don Lemon averaged 250k in the demo and 937k in total viewers at 10pm this quarter.

Every CNN dayside (9am-4pm) program easily surpassed MSNBC during the third quarter, posting higher demo 25-54 audiences including:  CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto (9-11am), At This Hour with Kate Bolduan (11am), Inside Politics with John King (weekday noon), CNN Right Now with Brianna Keilar (1pm) and CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin (2-4pm). On weekday mornings, Early Start with Christine Romans and Dave Briggs (4-6am) also topped MSNBC this quarter.

On Saturdays, CNN bested MNSBC for 22 out of 24 hours including key programs:  New Day Sat (6-9am), Smerconish (9am), CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield (noon-3pm), CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera (3-6pm), S.E. Cupp Unfiltered (6pm) and The Axe Files with David Axelrod (7pm)The Van Jones Show (7pm) was #1 in cable news in the demo 25-54 with 123k, Fox followed with 109k and MSNBC averaged 77k.

 

On Sundays, New Day Sun (7am), Inside Politics with John King (8am), State of the Union with Jake Tapper (9am and noon), Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11am), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10am and 1pm), CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield (2pm and 4pm), and CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera (5-8pm), all ranked #2 in cable news in their respective time periods, ahead of MSNBC among adults 25-54 this quarter.  CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield was #1 in cable news at 3pm, as was CNN Original Series programming from 9pm-midnight.  CNN also topped MSNBC for 24 out of 24 hours on Sundays in the demo adults 25-54.

 

Third Quarter Original Series and CNN Films Highlights:

 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Weed 5: The CBD Craze (9/29/19, Sun 8-9pm) ranked #1 in cable news in the key demo 25-54 (185k) and among younger viewers 18-34 (22k). The Gupta-led special outperformed both MSNBC and Fox by triple-digits in the demo 25-54 (+281% & +116% respectively), in its time period. Versus the prior four Sundays, Weed 5 posted double-digit growth among 25-54 (+56%) and total viewers (+20%).

 

On Sunday (9/29/19), the Season 3 premiere episode of CNN’s Original Series Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies (Tracking Terror: The 9/11 Subway Plot, 9-10pm), ranked #2 in the key demo 25-54 (130k) and among total viewers (573k). Declassified surpassed MSNBC in its time period among both 25-54 (+29%) and total viewers (+5%).

 

The Season 6 premiere of This is Life with Lisa Ling (Porn Ed, 9/29/19, Sun 10-11pm) delivered 150k among adults 25-54 and 581k among total viewers, ranking #2 in cable news among both demos, ahead of MSNBC. Versus the prior four Sunday time period average, the premiere episode of CNN’s Original Series This is Life was up in the demo 25-54 by +21%, up in total viewers by +36% and up in younger viewers 18-34 by +11%.

 

CNN’s Original Series The Movies (7/7/19-8/18/19, Sun 9-11pm) averaged 364k viewers among adults 25-54, 1.095 million in total viewers and 67k in younger viewers (18-34) across its six premiere episodes this season this quarter. CNN’s Original Series ranked #1 in cable news in the key demo adults 25-54 and 18-34 and #2 in total viewers in its time period, topping MSNBC.  The Movies was up versus the prior four Sunday’s time period average, posting the largest growth in cable news across all three demos: 25-54 (+92%), total viewers (+55%), and 18-34 (+116%). CNN’s The Movies ranked #3 among the Top 10 non-fiction Historical series in all of cable among adults 25-54 year-to-date.

 

CNN Films: Halston (8/25/19, Sun 9p-11p) delivered 151k among adults 25-54 and 677k in total viewers, outperforming Fox by +11% in the demo 25-54 and MSNBC by double digits among both 25-54 (+99%) and total viewers (+33%).

 

 

September Monthly Highlights:

 

  • CNN beat MSNBC in total day demo 25-54 (146k vs. 131k) for the third straight month and for 61 of the past 63 months.
  • CNN surpassed MSNBC during dayside (9am-4pm) for the 67th straight month (144k vs. 110k), the longest monthly streak on record.
  • CNN outperformed MSNBC on weekends in both total day in total viewers (520k vs. 503k) and in the demo (113k vs. 76k) and in prime time in total viewers (553k vs. 542k) and among adults 25-54 (132k vs. 76k).
  • The Lead with Jake Tapper ranked #2 in its hour among adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC for the second consecutive month (177k vs. 166k). The Lead has outperformed MSNBC for 17 out of the past 24 months.
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ranked #2 at 5pm among adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC for the 16th consecutive month (196k vs. 148k). The 5pm Situation Room has outperformed MSNBC for 23 out of the past 24 months. Sit Room at 6pm also ranked #2 among 25-54 ahead of MSNBC (213k vs. 180k) now for the third consecutive month. The 6pm hour has outperformed MSNBC for 21 out of the past 24 months.
  • Erin Burnett Outfront ranked #2 in its hour among adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC for the second consecutive month (227k vs. 198k). EBOF has outperformed MSNBC for 10 out of the past 12 months.
  • AC360 at 8pm ranked #2 in its hour among in the key demo adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC for the second consecutive month (253k vs. 246k). AC360 has outperformed MSNBC for seven of the past 12 months.
  • Cuomo Prime Time delivered CNN’s highest viewership in September among both the demo (277k) and total viewers (1.1 million).
  • CNN Tonight with Don Lemon averaged 951k in total viewers and 255k in adults 25-54 in September.
  • On Sundays, Inside Politics with John King (8am), State of The Union with Jake Tapper (9am and noon), Fareed Zakaria: GPS (10am and 1pm) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter ranked #2 in cable news in their respective time periods.
  • CNN topped MSNBC for 22 out of 24 hours on Saturdays and 23 hours on Sundays.

 

Among all cable networks, CNN ranked #6 this month in total day among total viewers in September, marking the 20th consecutive month that CNN is a Top 10 cable network. In weekday prime time (M-F 8-11pm), CNN ranked #6 in all of cable in total viewers.  All cable news nets were down vs. a year ago September, which included SCOTUS nominee Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford testifying to Congress, Sen. John McCain’s funeral and Hurricane Florence.

 

Median Age:  For the third quarter and month of September, CNN attracted an audience that is two years younger than Fox News and three years younger than MSNBC in total day. In prime, CNN was 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**:  2019-to-date, CNN reaches more people than any other cable news brand across TV and digital and reaches more people ages 25-54 than any other news brand across TV and digital.

 

Out of Home Lift:  CNN is averaging a +14% lift (or +20k) in Total Day among P25-54 with OOH viewers, CNN’s highest monthly percent lift so far and the largest net lift since September 2017. The network ranks #2 for OOH viewers gained (+20k) among all reportable OOH networks.

 

Digital Lift: CNN Digital viewing added a 2.3% lift to CNN’s Total Day average audience in 3Q-19 and September 2019, among total viewers.

 

 

 

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