Week of March 16 Cable Ranker: Americans Want Coverage of COVID-19 Pandemic, and Fox News, CNN, MSNBC Are Benefiting

By A.J. Katz 

As one might have guessed, cable news ratings were through the roof last week due to wall-to-wall COVID-19 coverage.

We should expect more of the same going forward.

Fox News led the way. Not only did the network remain No. 1 in Total Viewers across all of basic cable last week, but it also delivered its highest-rated week of 2020 to-date in total day with 2.5 million viewers and 553,000 in the 25-54 demo. That’s the network’s largest audience since the 2018 midterm election. In prime time, FNC averaged around 4 million viewers and 807,000 in the A25-54 demo, notching its 9th consecutive week at the top of basic cable in total viewers.

Over the weekend, the network delivered its largest weekend total 6 a.m.-6 a.m. audience since coverage of the 2003 Iraq war, and its most-watched weekend Adults 25-54 audience since coverage of 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

Hannity remained the No. 1 show on cable news, and averaged its second largest audience for a week since the program’s inception. Presentations of Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Outnumbered, Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner, and Your World with Neil Cavuto comprised nine of the 10 most-watched telecasts in cable news in total viewers. Additionally, Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight marked the top two programs in the cable news in total viewers and the demo, respectively.

CNN is performing well in its own right, drawing far more viewers than it does during relative quiet periods of the news cycle (remember when those existed?). The network eclipsed the 2 million total viewer mark in prime time last week (2.1 million), only behind Fox News and MSNBC across basic cable. However, it beat MSNBC in Total Day viewers, 1.52 million vs. 1.46 million. CNN also defeated MSNBC in Adults 25-54, during prime time and Total Day.

MSNBC’s breaking news and analysis of the coronavirus pandemic drew 1.46 million total viewers, per live-same-day data from Nielsen. That’s No. 3 across basic cable, less than Fox News and CNN. The network averaged 2.4 million viewers in prime time, No. 2 across all of basic cable and ahead of CNN.

A highlight for MSNBC last week was the performance of Morning Joe. The 6-9 a.m. program posted its highest-rated week ever, according to Nielsen data.

Basic Cable Top 5 – Primetime ( Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (4,009,000)
  2. MSNBC (2,436,000)
  3. CNN (2,099,000)
  4. HGTV (1,196,000)
  5. TLC (1,105,000)

Basic Cable Top 5 – Total Day ( Total Viewers)

  1. Fox News (2,488,000)
  2. CNN (1,521,000)
  3. MSNBC (1,461,000)
  4. HGTV (761,000)
  5. Nickelodeon (628,000)

Basic cable ranker: Week of March 16 (Total Viewers)

Circling back to Adults 25-54 — Fox News and CNN were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, last week across all of basic cable. That was true in prime time and in Total Day dayparts. MSNBC ranked No. 4 in the prime time demo (behind TBS) and No. 3 in the Total Day demo last week.

Cable News Ratings (A25-54)

  • FNC – Prime Time (807,000) and Total Day (553,000)
  • CNN – Prime Time (739,000) and Total Day (510,000)
  • MSNBC – Prime Time (472,000) and Total Day (283,000)

Basic cable ranker: Week of March 16 (Adults 25-54)