Week of Jan. 18 Cable News Ranker: CNN Wins Inauguration Week; MSNBC Takes Second Place Across Cable

By A.J. Katz 

Bolstered by record-setting inauguration day ratings, CNN ended the week of Jan. 18, 2021 as the most-watched network on cable television.

The network has now won each week of 2021 in total day viewers, and moved past ESPN to achieve the top spot among total viewers in prime time this past week.

CNN averaged 2.1 million total viewers and 627,000 adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day, as well as more than 2.8 million total viewers and 878,000 adults 25-54 for the week in prime time. For the past three weeks, CNN has averaged more adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day than Fox News and MSNBC combined.

Not only has CNN has been No. 1 for three weeks in total viewers, but perhaps more impressively, it has been No. 1 for 12 weeks in A25-54

Despite CNN’s dominance, the gap between cable news’ big three tightened a bit this past week. CNN is actually down -9% in total prime time viewers, and flat among adults 25-54 relative to the previous week. The network is down -3% in total day viewers, but did manage to grow +6% among adults 25-54 in total day, as a greater number of younger/more-casual news viewers tuned in to CNN during dayside and other non-prime time dayparts for inauguration coverage.

CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time was the No. 1 cable news host among adults 25-54 for the first time in 2021, while MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow remains the most-watched cable news host this year to-date. The Rachel Maddow Show is poised to win a month in total viewers for the first time since Feb. 2017.

Maddow’s home network had a solid ratings week as well. MSNBC was the second-most-watched network on cable, and also delivered the highest inauguration day ratings in network history.

MSNBC is down in total prime time viewers (-3%) from the previous week, but up in demo viewers (+7%). The network is -1% in total day viewers from the prior week, but up +7% among adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.

Fox News remains No. 3 across cable news, and has finished behind its rival competition each week this month to-date. However, the network did post some viewership growth from the prior week and tightened the gap in average total viewers. Fox is up +6% in total prime time viewers, +1% in the prime time demo, +6% in total day viewers, and +4% in the total day demo. Fox News finished No. 4 in total viewers during the week of Jan. 11, but moved up to No. 3 this past week.

The year-over-year ratings trend remain strong for CNN and MSNBC.

Compared to the week of Jan. 20, 2020, which featured a Senate impeachment trial, CNN is up +143% in total prime time viewers, and +142% in total day viewers. The network is also up +176% in the prime time demo, and +169% in the total day demo.

MSNBC’s year-over-year growth was less significant. The network is up +38% in total day viewers, and +47% in total day viewers. The network is also up +47% in the prime time demo, and +68% in the total day demo.

Fox News, on the other hand, struggled relative to last year. The network fell -23% in total prime time viewers, and -26% in total day viewers. The network was also down -21% in the prime time demo, and -28% in the total day demo.

After the big three cable newsers, TNT and HGTV were the 4th and 5th-most-watched cable networks for the week in prime time. In total day viewers, however, after cable news big three, HGTV and Hallmark Channel round out the top five for the week.

Week of Jan. 18, 2021, Monday-Sunday:

PRIME TIME CNN MSNBC Fox News
• Total Viewers: 2,839,000 2,759,000 2,642,000
• A25-54: 878,000 542,000 430,000

 

 

 

TOTAL DAY CNN MSNBC Fox News
• Total Viewers: 2,104,000 1,825,000 1,406,000
• A25-54: 627,000 348,000 245,000

 

 

 

Source: Nielsen live-plus-same-day data

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