Q3 ’21 Ratings: Fox News Dominates Competition, Marks Highest-Rated Quarter of the Year, But Is Down From 2020

By A.J. Katz 

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Another quarter, another massive audience flocking to Fox News Channel.

FNC was the most-watched basic cable channel across both in total day (1.46 million total viewers) and in primetime (2.49 million total viewers) during the 3rd quarter of 2021. Q3 now stands as the network’s highest-rated quarter of the year in both total viewers and the coveted 25-54 demo.

Fox News, which will officially mark its 25th anniversary on Oct. 7, 2021, also averaged more total viewers in primetime than CNN and MSNBC combined. In fact, Fox posted its largest percent advantage over CNN in the total day demo since Q2 2014, and MSNBC since Q1 2015. The network’s ratings earned a significant boost from wall-to-wall coverage of the recent conflict in Afghanistan.

How does the network’s Q3 2021 performance rate against that of other relevant quarters? Quite well, relative to the second quarter of 2021. Fox News grew by +9% in average total prime time viewers, +14% in average total day viewers,  by +9% in the prime time demo and by +14% in total day demo. More growth outside of primetime than in primetime was likely due to breaking news coverage of the conflict in Afghanistan across multiple dayparts, not limited to primetime.

Fox News’ year-over-year performance doesn’t look quite as great. But to be fair, Q3 2020 was even more news-heavy than Q3 ’21, with summer months featuring continuing coverage of the pandemic and coverage of a landmark presidential election campaign topped off by primetime debates. Versus the year-ago quarter, FNC was down -32% in average total prime time viewers, -22% in average total day viewers, -37% in the prime time demo and -25% in total day demo viewers.

How do Fox News Q3 ’21 ratings compare with the network’s Q3 2017 ratings? FNC is actually up by +10% in average total prime time viewers, but -1% in total day viewers, -14% in the prime time demo and -24% in the total day demo.

Here are the ratings for Q3, 2021 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,372,000 total viewers / 377,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,358,000 total viewers / 227,000 A25-54

Tucker Carlson Tonight completed the third quarter as the No. 1 program in its 8 p.m. timeslot in all categories, averaging 3.2 million viewers and 549,000 in the demo and surpassed its competitors in the 8 p.m. ET timeslot combined.

Gutfeld! finished the quarter No. 1 on cable news in all categories at 11 p.m. ET. The program, which is marking six months since its launch on Oct. 5, posted double-digit growth since last quarter in total viewers.

Additionally, during Q3, Fox News claimed nine of the top 10 cable news programs in average total viewers (MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show finished No. 5), as well as nine of the top 10 among adults 25-54 (TRMS finished No. 8 in the measurement).

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