The Top Basic Cable Networks of April 2019

By A.J. Katz 

According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, Fox News was the most-watched basic cable network for the month of April, winning in both the total day daypart (1.35 million viewers) and prime time (2.4 million).

The 1.35 million total viewer average in total day is -3% compared to what FNC delivered in April 2018,  while the 2.4 million average in prime time is even with last April.

MSNBC remained the second-most-watched network in basic cable. However, it lost traction relative to April 2018. Year-over-year, MSNBC was -14% in prime time viewers, and -9% in total day viewers. That said, when you look at the charts below, you’ll notice that it was Fox News and MSNBC as the dominant networks in total day viewing. Investigation Discovery finished a very distant third in total day behind those two.


CNN’s April ratings struggles have been well documented, with the network posting double digit year-over-year losses across multiple dayparts. HOWEVER, CNN still finished as one of the ten-most-watched basic cable networks in total day (No. 9), despite the drop off. The story was slightly different for CNN in prime time, with the network falling to No. 15 in total viewers.

TNT was the third-most-watched cable network in prime time, and one of five basic cablers to average more than one million viewers in the daypart. However, the network was -24% vs. what it averaged in April 2018.

HGTV (-13%), USA (-12%), ESPN (-17%), History (-1%), TBS (-33%) were the other top 10 basic cable networks to post year-over-year audience losses.

But not everyone fell. A&E, which came in at No. 9 thanks to Live PD, posted +5% total viewer growth in April 2019 vs. the previous April. Hallmark Channel, which came in at No. 10, posted impressive +29% year-over-year prime time viewer growth.

Moving to total viewers watching across total day –6 a.m. – 6 a.m.– Fox News and MSNBC finished No. 1 and No. 2, followed by Investigation Discovery, which especially thrives in the women 25-54 demo, HGTV, Nickelodeon, TNT, ESPN, USA, CNN and Hallmark rounding out the top 10.

Nine of the 10-most-watched basic cable networks in total day posted year-over-year losses. Hallmark, again, is a top 10 cable network that also posted year-over-year growth (+8 percent).

Basic Cable Ranker: April 2019 (Total Viewers)