The Top Basic Cable Networks For January 2018

By A.J. Katz 

News and sports-focused cable networks continue to deliver the largest audiences.

ESPN was the No. 1 cable network for January 2018 in prime time, followed by Fox News. But both networks were down year-over-year, with ESPN -23 percent and Fox News -14 percent versus Jan. 2017.

Fox News assumed its usual position atop the basic cable landscape in total day, but was -18 percent from last year. This year-over-year dropoff in multiple dayparts can be attributed to significant coverage of Pres. Trump’s Jan. 2017 inauguration festivities.


MSNBC, on the other hand, earned a third place finish across all of basic cable this past month, and managed to post year-over-year growth in total prime time viewers (+61 percent) and in total day viewers (+55 percent). It’s safe to say viewers weren’t flocking to MSNBC for coverage of Pres. Trump’s inauguration. But they’re flocking to the network now.

CNN posted a No. 14 finish in total prime time viewers, and No. 8 in total day viewers for January. Similar to Fox News, CNN posted year-over-year audience losses due to its in-depth inauguration coverage last year.

Elsewhere in cable news-land, HLN was -8 percent in prime time and -10 percent in total day versus its Jan. 2017 performance. CNBC was +25 percent in prime time viewers, and +6 percent in total day. Fox Business, which covered last year’s inauguration extensively, was -16 percent in prime time, but +4 percent in total day versus last January.

Below is a look at the basic cable top 10 for January, followed by an expanded basic cable network ranker sorted by Total Viewers.

Basic Cable Top 10 (Prime Time)

  1. ESPN (2,994,000)
  2. Fox News (2,456,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,862,000)
  4. HGTV (1,515,000)
  5. USA (1,395,000)
  6. History (1,278,000)
  7. Investigation Discovery (1,227,000)
  8. Discovery (1,198,000)
  9. TNT (1,195,000)
  10. TBS (1,091,000)

Basic Cable Top 10 (Total Day)

  1. Fox News (1,494,000)
  2. ESPN (1,167,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,001,000)
  4. Nickelodeon (988,000)
  5. Investigation Discovery (871,000)
  6. HGTV (863,000)
  7. USA (731,000)
  8. CNN (713,000)
  9. TNT (647,000)
  10. History (635,000)


Basic Cable Network Ranker: January 2018 (Total Viewers)