The Top Cable News Programs of 2018 Are …

By A.J. Katz Comment

While there was some movement in the 2018 cable news show rankings relative to the 2017 year-end rankings, there was also one notable constant: Sean Hannity remained the No. 1 host on cable news.

According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, the Fox News personality drew an average of 3.25 million total viewers over 212 original telecasts in 2018. That’s +2 percent total audience growth vs. what the show averaged in 2017 (3.18 million viewers).

Who followed Hannity in the cable news hierarchy in 2018? See below:

TOTAL VIEWERS (Nielsen Live+SD data) / # of Telecasts / YoY Change

  1. Hannity (3,253,000) / 212 telecasts / +2 percent
  2. The Rachel Maddow Show (2,889,000) / 241 telecasts / +13 percent
  3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (2,801,000) / 246 telecasts / +2 percent
  4.  The Ingraham Angle (2,582,000) / 242 telecasts / +3 percent
  5. The Five (2,372,000) / 249 telecasts / -12 percent
  6.  Special Report with Bret Baier (2,272,000) / 258 telecasts / -7 percent
  7.  Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (2,204,000) / 243 telecasts / +6 percent
  8. The Story with Martha MacCallum (2,077,000) / 254 telecasts / EVEN
  9. All In with Chris Hayes (1,854,000) / 246 telecasts / +8 percent
  10. America’s Newsroom (1,659,000) / 649 telecasts / -12 percent

Right behind Hannity was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Her program, The Rachel Maddow Show, was No. 2 across cable news in total viewers. Her’s finished No. 4 in total viewers in 2017. TRMS averaged 2.89 million viewers in 2018, which is +13 percent year-over-year.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham finished No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in total viewers. Each of their programs posted slight year-over-year growth.

The Five, on the other hand, posted a -12 percent loss in total viewers vs. 2017, but remained one of the most-watched shows on cable news.

Each MSNBC show which made the Top 10 –TRMS, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and All In with Chris Hayes– posted year-over-year audience growth. That’s notable considering those shows posted high-double-digit-percent YoY growth in 2017.

In fact, more than half of cable news 10-most-watched shows for 2018 posted year-over-year growth in total audience.

Unlike the network’s opinion programming, most of which posted year-over-year audience growth, many of Fox News’ signature news shows posted year-over-year declines. Special Report with Bret Baier, while still one of cable news most popular shows, was down from last year. The Story with Martha MacCallum was flat, while America’s Newsroom was down double digits.

Nevertheless, 7 of the 10-most-watched shows across cable news were Fox News programming, and the network still held strong as the No. 1 cable news network for 2018.

2018 cable news show ranker (Total Viewers)…

But how about the top cable news shows among viewers of 2018 among the all-important Adults 25-54 demographic? After all, it’s the category advertisers of television news traditionally based their spend on.

See below:

ADULTS 25-54 (Live+SD data) / # of Telecasts / YoY Change

  1. Hannity (635,000) / 212 telecasts / -2 percent
  2. The Rachel Maddow Show (582,000) / 241 telecasts / -1 percent
  3.  Tucker Carlson Tonight (549,000) / 246 telecasts / +1 percent
  4.  The Ingraham Angle (505,000) / 242 telecasts / +1 percent
  5. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (425,000) / 243 telecasts / -6 percent
  6.  The Five (421,000) / 249 telecasts / -11 percent
  7.  Special Report with Bret Baier (412,000) / 258 telecasts / -7 percent
  8.  The Story with Martha MacCallum (406,000) / 254 telecasts / -2 percent
  9.  Cuomo Prime Time (377,000) / 145 telecasts / NA
  10.  All In with Chris Hayes (357,000) / 246 telecasts / -7 percent

Not only was Sean Hannity the most-watched host on cable news in 2018, but his program was No. 1 among adults 25-54.

The top 4 among adults 25-54 mirrored the top 4 in total viewers: Rachel Maddow (No. 2), Tucker Carlson Tonight (No. 3) and The Ingraham Angle (No. 4).

CNN managed to earn a spot in the cable news top 10 among adults 25-54 this year, as Cuomo Prime Time ranked No. 9 and established itself as the No. 1 show on the network.

Interestingly, only two of the 10-most-watched cable news shows in the demo posted year-over-year growth in that category: The Ingraham Angle, and Tucker Carlson Tonight each posted +1 percent growth in the demo.

Should this decline be a cause for concern, or should we just chalk it up to 2018 being a non-inauguration year? A trend worth keeping an eye on as we head into 2019.

2018 cable news show ranker (Adults 25-54)…

MORNING SHOWS

Below is a look a year-end look at the cable news morning shows.

Program: Total Viewers / Adults 25-54

  • Fox & Friends: 1,517,000 / 324,000
  • Morning Joe: 1,091,000 /229,000
  • New Day: 576,000 /187,000

Fox & Friends ranked No. 1, per usual, but posted audience losses of -5 percent in total viewers and -12 percent in A25-54 viewers vs. 2017.

Morning Joe posted a record annual audience in 2018 (1.1 million viewers), which was +12 percent year-over-year. The program posted +1 percent growth in the A25-54 demo.

CNN New Day seemed to struggle a bit this year relative to 2017. The program was -9 percent in total viewers and -18 percent in A25-54 viewers.

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