Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC averaged the most viewers on basic cable last week, driven by ongoing coverage of the war in Ukraine, and President Biden’s State of the Union address last Tuesday.
During the week spanning Feb. 28-March 6, Fox News was the No. 1 basic cable network in total day and primetime among adults 25-54 and in average total viewers. In fact, last week was Fox’s best week in primetime since the week of the 2020 presidential election.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Fox News averaged 3.56 million total viewers in primetime this past week, which is +12% from the previous week. FNC averaged 736,000 adults 25-54 in primetime, also +12% from the week prior.
Additionally, Fox News averaged 2.19 million total viewers in total day during the week of Feb. 21, which is actually -1% from what the network averaged the prior week. FNC also averaged 453,000 adults 25-54 in total day, a +1% gain from the prior week. Fox News also averaged more total viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined for the 29th consecutive week.
Fox News wasn’t the only network to post audience gains from live breaking news coverage and analysis concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. CNN and MSNBC saw gains as well. In fact, CNN has seen the most audience growth of any cable network over the past two weeks.
CNN averaged 1.84 million total viewers in primetime last week, No. 2 on all of basic cable. The 1.84 million primetime viewer average is a +24% gain from the previous week. The network also averaged 1.185 million total day viewers, also No. 2 on all of cable, and +6% from the prior week. The network grew by +25% among adults 25-54 watching in primetime (604,000), and +2% among adults 25-54 watching in total day (336,000).
The discrepancy between primetime and total day viewer gains, particularly among adults 25-54, can likely be attributed to the State of the Union primetime broadcast on Tuesday, March 1. A special news event like the SOTU traditionally draws more adults 25-54 than typically watch primetime TV news.
MSNBC averaged 1.685 million primetime viewers this past week, which is +19% from the prior week. The network also averaged 960,000 total day viewers, +3% from the prior week. MSNBC averaged 260,000 adults 25-54 in primetime (+33%) and 135,000 adults 25-54 in total day (+3%). While that growth is impressive (especially among adults 25-54), MSNBC actually finished behind CNN for the second consecutive week in average total viewers and among adults 25-54.
Fox News, CNN and MSNBC posted week-to-week gains. Fox News and CNN posted year-over-year gains. Fox News’ audience has returned in full force after those Q1 ’21 struggles in total day. The network continues to post more gains than its competitors relative to the year-ago week. In fact, Fox News gained +47% in total primetime viewers, +103% in the primetime demo, +66% in total day viewers and +124% in the total day demo vs. the week of March, 1 2021.
CNN posted year-over-year gains for the second consecutive week. The network saw growth of +44% in total primetime viewers, +102% in the primetime demo, +31% in total day viewers and +63% in the total day demo vs. the year-ago week.
MSNBC, on the other hand, hasn’t benefited quite as much from the Ukraine story (ratings-wise). The network fell -13% in total primetime viewers, -14% in total day viewers, and -4% in the total day demo vs. the year-ago week. It did see +1% growth in the primetime demo, likely driven by live primetime coverage of Pres. Biden’s State of the Union.
On the programming front, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight moved up to No. 1 in total viewers (4.69 million), followed by The Five (4.21 million), Hannity (3.71 million), Jesse Watters Primetime (3.59 million) and Special Report with Bret Baier (3.31 million) rounding out the top five. Carlson was also No. 1 for the week among adults 25-54 (941,000).
Fox had the 12-most-watched cable news shows of the week. MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (featuring guest hosts) ranked No. 13 in average total viewers (2.16 million). Fox also had the five-most-watched cable news shows among adults 25-54. CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 came in at No. 6, averaging 626,000 adults 25-54 at 8 p.m.
Week of Feb. 28, 2022 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):
|• Total Viewers:||3,557,000||1,839,000||1,685,000|
|TOTAL DAY||Fox News||CNN||MSNBC|
|• Total Viewers:||2,172,000||1,185,000||960,000|
Below, the most-watched basic cable networks for the week. The left column is ranked by most to fewest average total primetime viewers, and the right column is ranked by most to fewest average total viewers across total day (6 a.m-6 a.m.).
Week of Feb. 28 (Total Viewers)