Top Cable News Programs of 2019: Hannity Is No. 1 for 3rd Straight Year, Tucker Carlson Moves Past Rachel Maddow Into 2nd Place

By A.J. Katz Comment

While there was some movement in the 2019 cable news show rankings relative to the 2018 year-end cable news show 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 the largest average audience on cable news for the 3rd consecutive year. In 2019, Hannity hauled in an average of 3.28 million total viewers over 212 original telecasts in 2019. That’s +1 percent total audience growth vs. what the show averaged in 2018(3.25 million viewers).

Who followed Hannity in the cable news hierarchy in 2019? That would be Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. The polarizing personality moved past the face of MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, and into 2nd place, both in total viewers and among adults 25-54.

The Fox News 8 p.m. juggernaut also managed to post the most significant year-over-year audience growth of any top-ranked cable news program: +9% from 2018.

Here’s the rest of the top 10.

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

  1. Hannity: 3,283,000 / 212 telecasts / +1%
  2. Tucker Carlson Tonight: 3,056,000 / 227 telecasts / +9%
  3. Rachel Maddow Show: 2,788,000 / 236 telecasts / -3%
  4. The Ingraham Angle: 2,593,000 / 224 telecasts / FLAT
  5. The Five: 2,564,000 / 249 telecasts / +8%
  6. Special Report with Bret Baier: 2,228,000 / 259 telecasts / -2%
  7. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: 2,136,000 / 236 telecasts / -3%
  8. The Story with Martha MacCallum: 1,956,000 / 254 telecasts / -6%
  9. All in with Chris Hayes: 1,739,000 / 240 telecasts / -6%
  10. America’s Newsroom: 1,603,000 / 767 telecasts / -3%

The Five had a standout year in its own. The long-running Fox News panel program averaged nearly 2.6 million total viewers in 2019, its 2nd-best-year ever in total viewers and +8% from its 2018 delivery.

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 base their spend on.

See below:

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

  1. Hannity: 533,000 / 212 telecasts / -16%
  2. Tucker Carlson Tonight: 512,000 /  227 telecasts / -7%
  3. Rachel Maddow Show: 463,000 / 236 telecasts / -20%
  4. The Ingraham Angle: 425,000 / 224 telecasts / -16%
  5. The Five: 395,000 / 249 telecasts / -6%
  6. Special Report with Bret Baier: 359,000 / 259 telecasts / -13%
  7. The Story with Martha MacCallum: 331,000 / 254 telecasts/ -18%
  8. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: 324,000 / 236 telecasts / -24%
  9. Fox & Friends: 282,000 / 775 telecasts / -13%
  10. Cuomo Prime Time: 281,000 / 219 telecasts / -25%

Fox News dominates the top 10, though not all of the top spots. MSNBC snagged two, Maddow (No. 3) and O’Donnell (No. 8). Cuomo Prime Time ranked No. 10, averaging 281,000 demo viewers and giving CNN a presence in the top 10. CNN’s 9 p.m. program averaged fewer adults 25-54 than a morning show. Rather remarkable.

Not a single one of the top 10 cable news shows among adults 25-54 posted growth from 2018. First instinct might be to chalk this up to 2018 having been an election year, except for the fact that only 2 of last year’s top 10 in the demo posted growth from the prior year (2018 vs. 2017).

The younger demographics have been leaving cable news since 2016. Will they return this year, a presidential election year? Remains to be seen.

MORNING SHOWS

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

Program: Total Viewers / Adults 25-54

  • Fox & Friends:  1,492,000 / 282,000
  • Morning Joe:  1,103,000 / 184,000
  • New Day:  507,000 / 134,000

Fox & Friends remained top dog among the cable news morning shows. However, the program was -2% in total viewers and -13% in the A25-54 demo from 2018. Morning Joe actually posted +1% total viewer growth in 2019 from 2018. The MSNBC morning show’s 1.1 million total viewers average for 2019 represented the show’s most-watched show ever. The audience is getting older, however. The program was -20% in A25-54 viewers from 2018.

CNN New Day remains a distant 3rd. The program was -12% in total viewers and -28% among adults 25-54 from 2018.

Below, the full program rankers:

2019 Cable News Program Ranker (Total Viewers)

2019 Cable News Program Ranker (Adults 25-54)

Data Source: 2019 (LIVE+SD) FINAL Competitive Program Analysis (excluding breaking news & specials) 2019 FINAL (12/31/18-12/27/19)

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