The Top Basic Cable Networks for Oct. 2019

By A.J. Katz 

Sports and news dominated the October cable TV landscape.

Lifted by its coverage of Monday Night Football, ESPN was the most-watched basic cable network for the month in prime time, according to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen. Fox News Channel followed, with rival MSNBC right behind, and Major League Baseball playoffs-focused TBS and FS1 rounding out the top five.

Fox News was the No. 1 basic cable network in total viewers during total day (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.), earning the top spot in that daypart for a whopping 40th consecutive month.


Relative to its Oct. 2018 performance, FNC was -5% in total prime time viewers and down double digits in other measurements across other dayparts.

MSNBC, No. 3 in total prime time viewers, and No. 2 in total day viewers across basic cable during October, posted double digit increases vs. its October 2018 performance. Quite frankly, this is not a total surprise considering the impeachment inquiry into Pres. Trump gained momentum. Now that the inquiry is formally underway (Oct. 31), MSNBC’s ratings should, in theory, continue to grow through November, especially in prime time.

Aided by its Democratic debate coverage, CNN was among the top 10 networks of the month in multiple dayparts. Among total viewers, it came in at No. 6 during prime time. Across total day, it was No. 4. As expected, CNN posted year-over-year growth in prime time. There was no Democratic primary debate in Oct. 2018.

Basic cable ranker: Oct. 2019 (Total Viewers)

October is arguably the best month of the year if you’re a sports fan. The NBA returns, the NFL, college football, NHL, professional soccer are in full swing, and the Major League Baseball playoffs are taking place. It’s no surprise then that among adults 25-54, the three most popular basic cable networks of the month were ESPN, TBS and Fox Sports 1. The National League Playoffs aired on TBS, while the American League Playoffs were on FS1.

On the TV news front— Fox News was No. 6 among adults 25-54 during prime time. CNN was No. 10 and MSNBC was No. 11.

Among adults 25-54 across 6 a.m. – 6 a.m., Fox News was No. 3 across basic cable, CNN was No. 8 and MSNBC No. 10.

Basic cable ranker: Oct. 2019 (Adults 25-54)