Week of March 1 Cable Ranker: Fox News Captures First Place in Prime Time, Total Day Viewers

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel averaged the largest total audience on basic cable during the week of March 1. The network hauled in an average of more than 2.4 million viewers in prime time (8-11 p.m. ET), and 1.3 million in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET).

Not only did Fox reign supreme in average total viewers, but it also defeated its cable news competitors when it came to the prime time demo. In fact, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged the most adults 25-54 of any cable news show this past week.

Compared to the prior week, which featured weekend coverage of the CPAC conference, Fox News was down -2% in total prime time viewers, and -4% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -6% in total viewers, and -8% in the demo.

Despite this recent ascent back to No. 1 ranking in multiple categories, the network still isn’t where it was at this time last year. Relative to the comparable week in 2020, Fox News dropped -26% in total prime time viewers, -36% in the prime time demo, -27% in total day viewers, and -38% in the total day demo.

Now be fair, the week of March 2, 2020 featured Fox News’ Democracy 2020 special coverage of Super Tuesday, which did garner the largest audience in total viewers in cable news history for the event, and Fox’s town hall with President Trump that Thursday marked the most-watched election town hall in cable news history (4.2 million viewers from 6:30-7:30 p.m. ET).

Matching that was going to be difficult.

CNN, on the other hand, finished second in the prime time demo behind Fox News, but third in total viewers behind both Fox News and MSNBC, and continues to lose viewers as we move further away from the major U.S. political events that defined late 2020 and the start of 2021.

In fact, it marked its lowest-rated week of the year in prime time, averaging 1.27 million total viewers in the daypart.

CNN is a go-to outlet for major news events, but traditionally has not been able to capture huge audiences during periods of relative quiet.

All of that said, CNN still did manage to average more adults 25-54 than Fox News and MSNBC in the 24-hour daypart. So, FNC’s pre-presidential election dominance isn’t 100% back.

Compared to the prior week, CNN was down -2% in total prime time viewers, but flat in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell just -1% in total viewers, and actually grew +2% in the demo. Compared to the same week the previous year, CNN fell -5% in total prime time viewers, and a whopping -27% in the prime time demo (Super Tuesday coverage drew far more younger news demos to CNN than usual). In total day, the network actually grew +7% in total viewers from last year, but dropped -9%.

While the aforementioned MSNBC might not have finished No. 1 in any of the key measurements or dayparts this past week, it’s still home to the most-watched host on cable news: Rachel Maddow. It also beat CNN in total viewers, but continues to struggle with adults 25-54 (outside of Maddow).

Once again the second-most-watched network on all of basic cable, MSNBC dropped -1% in total prime time viewers, -6% in total day viewers, -9% in the prime time demo and -11% in the total day demo versus the prior week. Relative to the same week in 2020, the network fell -7% in total prime time viewers, -1% in total day viewers, a whopping -34% in the prime time demo and -25% in the total day demo.

The week of March 1, 2021, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live+same-day data):

PRIME TIME Fox News MSNBC CNN
• Total Viewers: 2,425,000 1,942,000 1,273,000
• A25-54: 362,000 258,000 299,000

 

 

 

TOTAL DAY Fox News MSNBC CNN
• Total Viewers: 1,305,000 1,116,000 904,000
• A25-54: 204,000 141,000 206,000

 

 

 

Lifted by its coverage of the NBA All-Star Game, and the events that surround it, TNT finished No. 1 on basic cable last week among adults 25-54, beating both CNN and Fox News in the advertiser-preferred demographic.

Below, the full basic cable rankers for the week of March 1. First, sorted by total viewers and the second is sorted by adults 25-54:

Week of March 1 basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)

Week of March 1 basic cable ranker (Adults 25-54)

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