Week of March 13 Basic Cable Network Ranker: Amid Controversies, Fox News Remains Basic Cable’s Most-Watched Network

By A.J. Katz 

Controversy surrounding Fox News doesn’t seem to be hurting the network’s Nielsen ratings, as the network continues to attract millions of viewers across dayparts. Case in point, FNC averaged the most total day viewers and most total primetime viewers on basic cable this past week, in addition to marking its 102nd consecutive week as the top cable news network in total day viewers and Adults 25-54.

According to Nielsen live plus same day data for the week of March 6, 2023, FNC averaged 1.29 million total day viewers, 1.985 million total primetime viewers, 150,000 Adults 25-54 in total day and 219,000 Adults 25-54 in primetime. The 219,000 average in primetime is No. 7 on basic cable behind March Madness-carrying TNT, TBS, TruTV, the World Baseball Classic-carrying FS1 as well as USA network. The 150,000 total day average, on the other hand, is No. 5 on basic cable behind the aforementioned TBS and TNT, along with ESPN, which has the Women’s NCAA DI tournament and truTV.

How do those figures fare against comparable weeks?


Fox News shed viewers across dayparts from the previous week, with many of the consistent viewers perhaps switching over to March Madness, at least for a little while. Additionally, the week prior (March 6) was one of Fox News’ most-watched weeks in months, with viewer gains driven by controversy around the host and his Jan. 6 insurrection tape release broadcasts. FNC primetime shed -11% in total viewers and -20% in A25-54 from the previous week. The network also shed -5% in total day viewers and -13% among Adults 25-54 in total day.

Fox also trended in the wrong direction on a year-over-year basis. The network shed -23% in total primetime viewers, half of its audience from the primetime demo (-50%), 24-% in total day viewers, and half of its audience from the total day demo versus the week of March 14, 2022.

MSNBC finished No. 5 in total primetime viewers among ad-supported cablers this past, averaging 1.105 million in the daypart. The network placed second in total day viewers for the eighth consecutive week with 695,000. MSNBC marked three consecutive weeks ahead of CNN in primetime among Adults 25-54 (110,000 vs. 84,000). The network dropped from No. 27 to tied for No. 30 in primetime demo. However, the network climbed from No. 24 to No. 20 in the total day demo, averaging 76,000 viewers in the measurement this past week.

Unlike Fox (and as we’ll soon show CNN), MSNBC actually posted week to week gains in multiple measurements, +2% in total primetime viewers and +3% in total day viewers, +7% in the total day demo but -7% in the primetime demo. MSNBC received an assist from the debut of Inside with Jen Psaki. Averaging 1.1 million total viewers and 137,000 Adults 25-54 Noon ET on Sunday, March 19, Inside was the top-rated cable news program at Noon in the A25-54 demo, and represented MSNBC’s most-watched weekend premiere in more than four years (since Jan. 2019). MSNBC also managed to deliver its highest-rated weekend since midterm election week (18 weeks ago). This was the network’s third highest-rated weekend of the past 12 months.

Relative to the year-ago week (March 14, 2022), MSNBC also gained +3% in total primetime viewers and +2% in total day viewers. However, the network continues to lose a substantial number of viewers under 55. It fell by -31% in the primetime demo and -11% in the total demo from the same week in 2022.

CNN had a poor ratings week. In fact, the network averaged its smallest Adults 25-54 audience in primetime in roughly three decades (84,000 viewers).

The network dropped four spots to No. 17 in total primetime viewers, drawing a 383,000 total viewer average. The network also dropped to No. 5 in total day viewing with a 395,000 viewer average. It’s rare for a cable news network to average more viewers in total day than in primetime, but that’s what happened this past week. CNN remained No. 33 in primetime Adults 25-54, posting the aforementioned 84,000 viewer average in the daypart. That’s tied with Paramount Network. The network fell three spots to No. 18 in the total day demo, averaging 80,000 viewers from the measurement this past week.

Compared to the prior week, which did not feature NCAA March Madness across its WBD sibling channels, CNN dropped -13% in total primetime viewers, -12% in the primetime demo, -3% in total day viewers and only -1% in the total day demo. The network shed -62% in total primetime viewers, -70% among A25-54 in primetime, -49% in total day total viewers and -57% among A25-54 watching across total day vs. the year-ago week — where Russia-Ukraine war coverage continued to reign over cable news.

Week of March 13, 2023 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 1,985,000 1,105,000 383,000
• A25-54: 219,000 100,000 84,000




• Total Viewers: 1,286,000 695,000 395,000
• A25-54: 150,000 76,000 80,000




In terms of individual programming, Tucker Carlson Tonight marked its second consecutive week as cable news’ most-watched show, averaging 3.15 million total viewers at 8 p.m. last week.

The Five came in second with an average of 2.95 million viewers at 5 p.m. Jesse Watters Primetime remained third (2.55 million at 7 p.m.), with Hannity (2.37 million at 9 p.m.), and Special Report with Bret Baier (2.09 million at 6 p.m.) rounding out the top five.

Carlson continues to draw the most adults 25-54 on cable news, averaging 396,000 viewers from the measurement this past week. The Five came in second with 296,000 viewers at 5 p.m., with Gutfeld! (277,000), Hannity (265,000) and Jesse Watters Primetime (249,000) rounding out the top five in the key A25-54 demo.

Fox News had the 10-most-watched cable news shows and 12 of the top 15 for the week of March 6. MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell remains No. 11 with a 1.37 million total viewer average at 10 p.m., and The Beat with Ari Melber remained No. 13 with 1.3 million at 6 p.m.

MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace was the most-watched show on cable news at 4 p.m. this past week, averaging nearly 1.29 million total viewers.

Additionally, Fox News had at least the top 15 cable news shows of the week among Adults 25-54.

Below, the basic cable network rankers — sorted by average total viewers followed by A25-54.

Week of March 13 (Total Viewers)

Week of March 13 (Adults 25-54)