Top Cable News Shows of 2020: Hannity Marks 4 Straight Years at No. 1; Tucker Carlson Establishes New Record Among Adults 25-54

By A.J. Katz Comment

CNN programming delivered scores of adults 25-54 in the weeks leading up to and after the 2020 presidential election, while MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Morning Joe averaged more total viewers than their time slot competition in December.

But at the end of the day, it was Fox News, once again, that dominated the cable news rankings, led by Sean Hannity, whose 9 p.m. show averaged the largest total audience on cable news for the 4th straight year (4.38 million).

Fox News is home to six of the 10-most-watched cable news shows for the year 2020, all of which saw noticeable growth from 2019 (as expected).

Tucker Carlson remained No. 2 in total viewers (as was true in 2019), and averaged more adults 25-54 this year than any other cable news show in history (794,000).

Joy Reid’s new 7 p.m. show, which launched in July, made its way into the final top 10, as did Nicolle Wallace’s 4 p.m. MSNBC show Deadline: White House, which was extended by an hour back in August.

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show slipped from No. 3 in 2019 to No. 5 in 2020, despite having her most-watched broadcast ever earlier this year.

Here’s a snapshot of the top 10 regularly-scheduled cable news shows for 2020.

2020 TOTAL VIEWERS (Nielsen Live+SD data)

Time Slot | Program / Total Viewers / # of Telecasts 

  1. 9 p.m. | Hannity: 4,377,000 / 219
  2. 8 p.m. | Tucker Carlson Tonight: 4,355,000 / 236
  3. 5 p.m. | The Five: 3,634,000 / 249
  4. 10 p.m. | The Ingraham Angle: 3,529,000 / 229
  5. 9 p.m. | The Rachel Maddow Show: 3,221,000 / 222
  6. 6 p.m. | Special Report with Bret Baier: 3,124,000 / 243
  7. 7 p.m. | The Story with Martha MacCallum: 2,698,000 / 241
  8. 10 p.m. | Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: 2,439,000 / 212
  9. 7 p.m. | ReidOut: 2,160,000 / 109
  10. 4-6 p.m. | Deadline: White House: 2,123,000 / 248

The full regularly-scheduled cable news ranker for 2020, sorted by average total viewers.

2020 cable news ranker (Total Viewers)

 

Moving over to the key demographic of adults 25-54— Tucker Carlson Tonight is one of the most polarizing shows on television. It’s also the most popular cable news show among adults 25-54, and its 794,000 viewers average in 2020 is new record for a cable news show.

Hannity finished closely behind his FNC colleague with an average of 783,000 adults 25-54 in the 9 p.m. hour. In fact, the top 6 cable news shows of 2020 were all Fox News shows. The Rachel Maddow Show came in at No. 7, the highest-rated non-Fox News show, while the CNN trio of Cuomo Prime Time, Anderson Cooper 360 and Erin Burnett Outfront filled out the cable news top 10 among adults 25-54.

2020 ADULTS 25-54 (Live+SD data) 

Time Slot | Program / Adults 25-54 / # of Telecasts 

  1. 8 p.m. | Tucker Carlson Tonight: 794,000 / 236
  2. 9 p.m. | Hannity: 783,000 / 219
  3. 10 p.m. | The Ingraham Angle: 645,000 / 229
  4. 5 p.m. | The Five: 593,000 / 249
  5. 6 p.m. | Special Report with Bret Baier: 550,000 / 243
  6. 7 p.m. | The Story with Martha MacCallum: 524,000 / 241
  7. 9 p.m. | The Rachel Maddow Show: 521,000 / 222
  8. 9 p.m. | Cuomo Prime Time: 503,000 / 251
  9. 8 p.m.| Anderson Cooper 360: 472,000 / 229
  10. 7 p.m.| Erin Burnett Outfront: 438,000 / 243

The full regularly-scheduled cable news ranker for 2020, sorted by adults 25-54.

2020 cable news 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:  1,647,000 / 309,000
  • Morning Joe:  1,353,000 / 220,000
  • New Day:  663,000 / 163,000

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