Week of Jan. 4 Cable Ranker: CNN and MSNBC Finish No. 1 and No. 2 on Basic Cable for First Time Since 2000

By A.J. Katz Comment

Coverage of the Georgia senate special election (remember that?), followed by the Senate’s counting of the electoral college votes, and then of course wall-to-wall coverage of the horrific attacks on the U.S. Capitol, along with the aftermath, lifted CNN and MSNBC to record viewership last week.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data for the week of Jan. 4, 2021, CNN was by far the most-watched network on all of cable television, averaging a whopping 4.2 million total viewers in prime time. The network averaged 2.8 million across the 24-hour day, also No. 1 across cable.

The network also averaged 1.35 million adults 25-54 in prime time (almost more than Fox News and MSNBC combined) and 830,000 adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day (which is more than Fox News and MSNBC combined).

Speaking of adults 25-54, Anderson Cooper was the No. 1 cable news host last week among adults 25-54, averaging 1.44 million viewers from the demo across four nights (Monday, Wednesday-Friday). Cooper edged his colleague Chris Cuomo, who averaged 1.39 million adults 25-54 for the week. Don Lemon averaged 1.25 million adults 25-54 in the 10 p.m. hour. No other cable news show averaged more than 1 million demo viewers last week.

CNN’s coverage of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 was the network’s most-watched day in history with 5.2 million total viewers tuning in.  CNN’s second most-watched day was the 2016 election (Nov. 8, 2016) where 5.1 million watched.

Year-over-year, the trend is wild: CNN is +278% in total prime time viewers, +308% in the prime time demo, +275% in total day viewers and +332% in the total day demo.

The same is true on a week-to-week basis, although the prior week featured both Christmas and New Year’s. CNN was +162% in total prime time viewers, +232% in the prime time demo, +122% in total viewers across the 24-hour day and +179% among adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.

MSNBC’s performance wasn’t too shabby either last week. NBC’s politics-focused cable network set a network-record by averaging 3.8 million total viewers in prime time and 2.3 million in total day for the week of Jan. 4. The network also averaged 826,000 adults 25-54 in prime time, and 454,000 adults 25-54 in total day last week.

Year-over-year, MSNBC is up +115% in total prime time viewers, +176% in the prime time demo, +132% in total viewers across the 24-hour day and +203% in adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.

Week-to-week, the network saw more growth than CNN: Up +164% in total prime time viewers, +279% in the prime time demo, +125% in total day viewers, and +193% in the total day demo.

Rachel Maddow had the most-watched regularly-scheduled show of the week in total viewers, averaging 4.45 million over 4 nights (Monday, Wednesday-Friday). Maddow edged Anderson Cooper in average total viewers. Cooper averaged 4.4 million total viewers also over those same four nights. Chris Cuomo came in third (4.2 million).

For the first time since the year 2000, Fox News finished behind CNN and MSNBC, both in total day viewers and in prime time viewers last week. Probably not a trend one should get used to seeing, but it’s a trend worth noting nonetheless. FNC averaged 3.2 million total viewers in prime time and 1.7 million in total day. The network also averaged 592,000 adults 25-54 in prime time, and 335,000 adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.

Despite its 3rd place finish, in total day, Fox News experienced its highest viewership since the week of the election in both total viewers and in the key 25-54 demo. In prime time, FNC also earned its most-watched week since the week after the election.

Tucker Carlson had the No.4 ranked cable news show of the week among total viewers (4.18 million), and was No. 5 among adults 25-54 (821,000).

Year-over-year, Fox News finished -2% in total prime time viewers, up +1% in the prime time demo, but -9% in total viewers across the 24-hour day and -1% among adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.

The week-to-week trend was better: Up +80% in total prime time viewers, +138% in the prime time demo, +48% in total viewers across the 24-hour day, and +86% in the demo across the 24-our day.

CNN, MSNBC and Fox News were the three-most-watched networks across all of basic cable for the week of Jan. 4, 2021.

HGTV (1.1 million) and TNT (1.06 million) round out the top 5 in prime time. HGTV (647,000) and Hallmark (559,000) round out the top 5 in total day viewers.

Week of Jan. 4, 2021, Monday-Sunday:

PRIME TIME CNN MSNBC Fox News
• Total Viewers: 4,176,000 3,782,000 3,188,000
• A25-54: 1,347,000 826,000 592,000

 

 

 

TOTAL DAY CNN MSNBC Fox News
• Total Viewers: 2,772,000 2,286,000 1,680,000
• A25-54: 830,000 454,000 335,000

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