It appears we’re returning to how things were before the 2020 presidential election on the ratings front: Fox News is No. 1 on cable news, both in total day and prime time among adults 25-54 and in total viewers.
FNC also remains the top-rated in all of cable in total prime time viewers year-to-date and notched its 5th consecutive week as No. 1 in all of cable in total viewers.
Additionally, Tucker Carlson held onto the No. 1 slot on cable news, finishing the week as the top program in total viewers (3 million) and among adults 25-54 (495,000) for the second consecutive week. Hannity ranked No. 2 on cable news in the demo (411,000), and No. 3 in total viewers (2.7 million).
Not all of the ratings news was positive, however. Compared to the prior week, Fox News shed -9% of its average total prime time audience, and was down -13% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -5% in total viewers, and -13% in the demo.
Despite this recent ascent back to No. 1 in multiple key categories, the network still isn’t quite where it was at this time last year. The comparable week in 2020 (week of March 16) featured early Covid-19 pandemic coverage, which caused Americans to flock to their TV sets. It also means Fox (and its competitors) are bound to see year-over-year ratings losses through the spring. Case in point: Fox News shed -43% of its average total prime time audience, fell -57% in the prime time demo, -50% in total day viewers, and -64% in the total day demo from the same week last year.
CNN once again finished second in the prime time demo behind Fox News this past week, but behind both Fox News and MSNBC in total viewers. The network also dropped to No. 6 in average total prime time viewers, with its WarnerMedia siblings TNT and TBS seeing ratings growth thanks to NCAA March Madness coverage.
CNN experienced its lowest-rated week of 2021 to-date in total day and prime time among both total viewers and adults 25-54.
Compared to the prior week, CNN dropped -10% in total prime time viewers, and -17% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -13% in total viewers, and -13% the demo. Compared to the same week the previous year, CNN fell -47% in total prime time viewers, and -64% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -50% in total viewers from last year, and dropped -65% in the total day demo.
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. That seems to be happening at this point in time, although the network will very likely finish the quarter No. 1 in the A25-54 demo. Q1 2021 ratings will be out later this month.
Once again the second-most-watched network on all of basic cable, MSNBC, like CNN, continues to see predictable ratings losses as we ease further into the new, comparatively chaos-free presidential administration. Relative to the prior week, MSNBC fell -10% in total prime time viewers, -11% in the prime time demo, -8% in total day viewers and -7% in the total day demo.
Year-over-year, MSNBC shed -30% of its average total prime time audience, -52% of its prime time demo audience, fell -32% in total day viewers and -55% in the total day demo.
MSNBC’s 997,000 total day viewer average last week is the network’s smallest average audience, year to-date.
On a more positive note for MSNBC, Rachel Maddow remains the most-watched cable news host in the 9 p.m. hour, and the second-most-watched on all of cable.
The week of March 15, 2021, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live+same-day data):
|PRIME TIME||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||2,289,000||1,710,000||1,107,000|
|TOTAL DAY||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||1,237,000||997,000||755,000|
Fox News, TBS, MSNBC, TNT, HGTV, CNN, Hallmark Channel, History, Discovery and USA are the 10-most-watched basic cable networks in prime time for the week of March 15. In total day, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN lead the way, and they’re followed by TBS, HGTV, TNT, Hallmark, ID, Food Network and USA.
When it comes to adults 25-54, TBS and TNT, both of whom televised March Madness games last week, finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, across basic cable in prime time. Fox News finished 3rd, followed by HGTV, USA, Food Network, FX, Discovery, TLC and ESPN.
CNN (No. 12) and MSNBC (No. 16) fail to make the prime time top 10.
Among adults 25-54 across total day, TBS and TNT remain No. 1 and No. 2, followed by Fox News, ID, HGTV, CNN, Food Network, ESPN, USA, and truTV.
MSNBC ranks No. 14.
That’s according to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen.
Here are the rankers for the week of March 15. The first is sorted by average total viewers, and the second by adults 25-54.
Week of March 15 basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)