Rachel Maddow, Tucker Carlson, Chris Cuomo Are the Most-Watched Hosts on Cable News for January

By A.J. Katz 

CNN was the most-watched cable news network for the month of January, followed by MSNBC and Fox News in that order. CNN and MSNBC hadn’t ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in total viewers in 20 years.

CNN may have been the most-watched network, both in prime time and across the full 24-hour day last month, but Rachel Maddow was (and continues to be) the most-watched host in 2021.

Her 9 p.m. MSNBC show finished No. 1 in total viewers for the month of January, and has been No. 1 on cable news for 17 consecutive days, dipping into the month of February.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, a perennial top finisher in recent months, finished second in average total viewers, followed by CNN’s top host Chris Cuomo.

As per Nielsen data, here are the top 25 regularly-scheduled cable news shows for the month of January, sorted by average total viewers. This data does include time-shifting and excludes re-airs.

Rank Net Show Name Start Time P2+
Imps (000)
#TC
1 MSNBC RACHEL MADDOW SHOW 09:00 PM 4326 21
2 FOXNC TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT 08:00 PM 3666 23
3 CNN CUOMO PRIME TIME 09:00 PM 3622 17
4 MSNBC LAST WORD LAWRENCE ODONNELL 10:00 PM 3369 21
5 CNN ANDERSON COOPER 360 08:00 PM 3361 20
6 MSNBC DEADLINE:WHITE HOUSE 04:00 PM 3204 21
7 FOXNC HANNITY 09:00 PM 3182 23
8 CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT 07:00 PM 3039 20
9 FOXNC FIVE, THE 05:00 PM 2908 22
10 CNN LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER 04:00 PM 2794 19
11 MSNBC 11TH HOUR W/BRIAN WILLIAMS 11:00 PM 2779 23
12 CNN SITUATION ROOM WOLF BLITZER 05:00 PM 2777 19
13 CNN CNN TONIGHT DON LEMON 10:00 PM 2749 21
14 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 03:00 PM 2687 14
15 MSNBC ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES 08:00 PM 2656 20
16 MSNBC REIDOUT 07:00 PM 2592 21
17 MSNBC BEAT W/ARI MELBER 06:00 PM 2547 20
18 FOXNC INGRAHAM ANGLE, THE 10:00 PM 2535 23
19 CNN SITUATION ROOM 06:00 PM 2501 19
20 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 02:00 PM 2477 18
21 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 12:00 PM 2404 14
22 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 01:00 PM 2328 18
23 FOXNC SPECIAL RPT W/BRET BAIER 06:00 PM 2287 23
24 FOXNC THE STORY MARTHA MACCALLUM 07:00 PM 2072 13
25 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 11:00 AM 2021 19

MSNBC had 7 of the top 25 most-watched regularly scheduled cable news shows for January. Fox News had six, while CNN had a 12. CNN’s daytime coverage has performed averaged especially large audiences in recent months, lifted by coverage of the election, the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration, and of course, the pandemic.

The 3 p.m. hour of CNN Newsroom (anchored by Brooke Baldwin) is the most-watched hour of the afternoon for CNN. 3 p.m. is followed by 2 p.m. (also Baldwin), Noon (anchored by John King), 1 p.m. (anchored by Brianna Keilar) and 11 a.m. (anchored by Kate Bolduan) coming in at No. 25 in total viewers.

The Ingraham Angle is traditionally a top 5 cable news show, however, it dropped to No. 18 last month in total viewers. Special Report with Bret Baier and The Story with Martha MacCallum (which recently moved from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m.) are usually top 10 shows that fell to No. 23 and No. 24, respectively. Very rare. One would assume they’ll shoot back up the ranks past CNN and MSNBC once this hot news cycle calms down.

What about ranking cable news shows by Adults 25-54, you ask? CNN leads the charge with the top four, and eight of the top 10,led by the aforementioned Cuomo, AC360, Erin Burnett Outfront and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.

TRMS, which finished No. 1 in total viewers and skews a bit older than its CNN competition, comes in at No. 5 in the demo. Maddow is followed in the A25-54 cable news hierarchy by both hours of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, The Lead with Jake Tapper, his 3 p.m. CNN Newsroom lead-in (anchored by Brooke Baldwin), with Tucker Carlson rounding out the top 10.

The remaining top 25 is below.

Rank Net Show Name Start Time P25-54
Imps
#TC
1 CNN CUOMO PRIME TIME 09:00 PM 1061 17
2 CNN ANDERSON COOPER 360 08:00 PM 970 20
3 CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT 07:00 PM 893 20
4 CNN CNN TONIGHT 10:00 PM 868 21
5 MSNBC RACHEL MADDOW SHOW 09:00 PM 808 21
6 CNN SITUATION ROOM 05:00 PM 728 19
7 CNN SITUATION ROOM 06:00 PM 716 19
8 CNN LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER 04:00 PM 703 19
9 CNN CNN NEWSROOM (Baldwin) 03:00 PM 664 14
10 FOXNC TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT 08:00 PM 651 23
11 CNN CNN NEWSROOM (King) 12:00 PM 631 14
12 CNN CNN NEWSROOM (Baldwin) 02:00 PM 623 18
13 CNN CNN TONIGHT 11:00 PM 620 17
14 CNN CNN NEWSROOM (Keilar) 01:00 PM 598 18
15 MSNBC LAST WORD / L. ODONNELL 10:00 PM 586 21
16 FOXNC HANNITY 09:00 PM 549 23
17 MSNBC DEADLINE:WHITE HOUSE 04:00 PM 543 21
18 MSNBC 11TH HOUR W/B. WILLIAMS 11:00 PM 523 23
19 CNN CNN NEWSROOM (Boulduan) 11:00 AM 512 19
20 MSNBC REIDOUT 07:00 PM 481 21
21 MSNBC ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES 08:00 PM 466 20
22 FOXNC INGRAHAM ANGLE, THE 10:00 PM 465 23
23 CNN CNN NEWSROOM 10:00 AM 464 19
24 CNN ANDERSON COOPER 360 12:00 AM 457 14
25 MSNBC BEAT W/ARI MELBER 06:00 PM 434 20
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