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America’s most-watched basic cable network remained at the top of the heap in 2018. For the third consecutive year Fox News Channel ranked No. 1 in total viewers, both in prime time and across the 24-hour day (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.)
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, FNC averaged 2.4 million total viewers in prime time during 2018, +26 percent more than the next closest finisher, ESPN, and 1.4 million total day viewers in 2018, +43 percent more than second place finisher MSNBC. In fact, Fox News was the sole basic cable network to average more than a million viewers across the 24-hour day.
When compared to 2017, Fox News was +1 percent in total prime time viewers.
The majority of the other top cable entertainment networks posted year-over year declines in 2018. This is likely due to the increase in cord cutting, a trend TV news and other networks which broadcast live programming have seemingly proved immune to.
MSNBC, as noted in previous reports this week, posted the most significant year-over-year audience growth of any top 25 basic cable network (+10 percent in prime time / +12 percent in total day).
ESPN had a pretty strong 2018 as well, only -1 percent from 2017. In this day and age, call that a win.
2018 BASIC CABLE TOP 10
Prime Time (Total Viewers) / YoY % Change
- Fox News Channel (2,434,000) / +1 percent
- ESPN (1,929,000) / -1 percent
- MSNBC (1,802,000) / +10 percent
- HGTV (1,314,000) / -6 percent
- USA (1,291,000) / -9 percent
- TBS (1,262,000) / –10 percent
- TNT (1,171,000) / FLAT
- Hallmark (1,105,000) / +1 percent
- History (1,038,000) / -8 percent
- Investigation Discovery (1,007,000) / FLAT
Total Day (Total Viewers) / YoY % Change
- Fox News (1,424,000) / -5 percent
- MSNBC (994,000) / +12 percent
- Nickelodeon (870,000) / -22 percent
- ESPN (760,000) / -2 percent
- HGTV (736,000) / -8 percent
- Investigation Discovery (719,000) / -3 percent
- CNN (706,000) / -9 percent
- Hallmark (656,000) / +4 percent
- USA (617,000) / -12 percent
- TNT (591,000) / -7 percent
The Total Day top 10 looks relatively similar to prime time. Fox News at No. 1 despite losing viewers from 2017, and MSNBC posting double digit growth in total viewers for the second straight year.
Kids/daytime-focused Nickelodeon found its way to No. 3. However, the network continues to post year-over-year declines, as kids are increasingly watching their favorite shows on various other devices.
CNN earned a strong No. 7 ranking, while TBS, which thrives on acquisitions and live sports in prime time, is not in the Total Day top 10; neither is History.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Nielsen-rated basic cable networks for 2018: