Week of March 20 Basic Cable Ranker: Top-Ranked Fox News, MSNBC and CNN Post Week-to-Week Gains

By A.J. Katz 

Americans returned to cable news this past week.

Fox News Channel averaged the most total day viewers on basic cable this past week, in addition to marking its 103rd 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 20, 2023, Fox News averaged 1.31 million total day viewers and 154,000 A25-54 viewers in total day. The 154,000 from the total day demo is No. 3 on basic cable behind March Madness-carrying networks TBS (men’s tournament) and ESPN (women’s tournament).


Fox News was the second-most-watched basic cable network in primetime (2.065 million viewers) finishing behind TBS (3.2 million viewers). In addition to averaging 2.065 million total primetime viewers, FNC averaged 234,000 Adults 25-54, No. 5 in the daypart behind TBS, FS1 (which televised the World Baseball Classic), ESPN and USA.

How do those figures fare against comparable weeks?

Fox News gained viewers across dayparts from the previous week, March 13. In primetime, the network gained +4% in total viewers and +7% in A25-54. In total day, the network +2% in total viewers and +3% among Adults 25-54.

Fox trended in the wrong direction on a year-over-year basis. The network shed -17% in total primetime viewers, -44% of its audience from the primetime demo, -20% in total day viewers, and -46% of its audience from the total day demo versus the week of March 21, 2022.

Nevertheless, Fox News continues to draw a substantially larger audience than its cable news competition.

Speaking of cable news competition, MSNBC finished No. 3 in total primetime viewers among ad-supported cablers this past week, averaging 1.22 million in the daypart. The network placed third in total day viewers with 769,000.

After three consecutive weeks at No. 2 on cable news in primetime among Adults 25-54, MSNBC dropped back behind CNN in the measurement (114,000 vs. 116,000). However, the network improved from No. 30 to No. 22 on basic cable, tied in the measurement with Hallmark Channel. MSNBC climbed from No. 20 to No. 11 on basic cable in the total day demo, averaging 90,000 A25-54 viewers in the daypart; tied with CNN.

MSNBC posted another week of audience gains in multiple measurements, +10% in total primetime viewers and +11% in total day viewers, +18% in the total day demo and +14% in the primetime demo. MSNBC received an assist from the second episode of Inside with Jen Psaki, which drew more than one million viewers for the second consecutive Sunday — the most-watched cable news offering in the Sunday 12 p.m. ET hour this past week.

Relative to the year-ago week (March 21, 2022), MSNBC gained +6% in total primetime viewers and +4% in total day viewers. However, the network continues to lose Adults 25-54 in primetime. The network shed -25% in the primetime demo but actually gained +1% in the total demo from the same week in 2022.

CNN rebounded after what had been an especially poor ratings week. The network finished No. 14 in average total primetime viewers (539,000), up three spots from the previous week, and No. 6 in total day viewers (467,000). CNN improved 12 spots to No. 21 among Adults 25-54 in primetime, averaging 116,000 viewers in the daypart, one spot ahead of MSNBC. Additionally, CNN gained seven spots from the prior week in the total day demo (No. 18 to No. 11), tying MSNBC with a 90,000 A25-54 viewers average in the daypart this past week.

The network received an assist from its Sunday primetime broadcast of The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor honoring Adam Sandler, CNN’s most-watched program of the entire week (854,000 viewers, including 917,000 in the 9 p.m. hour).

Compared to the prior week, CNN gained +41% in total primetime viewers, +38% in the primetime demo, +18% in total day viewers and +13% in the total day demo. On the downside, CNN saw a steeper year-over-year drop off than its main competitors. The network shed -39% in total primetime viewers, -52% among A25-54 in primetime, -36% in total day total viewers and -48% 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 20, 2023 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 2,065,000 1,218,000 539,000
• A25-54: 234,000 114,000 116,000




• Total Viewers: 1,310,000 769,000 467,000
• A25-54: 154,000 90,000 90,000




In terms of individual programming, Tucker Carlson Tonight marked its third consecutive week as cable news’ most-watched show, averaging 3.215 million total viewers at 8 p.m. this past week.

The Five came in second with an average of 3.063 million viewers at 5 p.m. Jesse Watters Primetime remained third (2.59 million at 7 p.m.), with Hannity (2.56 million at 9 p.m.), and Special Report with Bret Baier (2.14 million at 6 p.m.) rounding out the top five.

Carlson continues to draw the most Adults 25-54 on cable news, averaging 404,000 viewers from the measurement this past week. The Five came in second with 298,000 A25-54 viewers on average at 5 p.m., Hannity (265,000 at 9 p.m.) Jesse Watters Primetime (263,000 at 7 p.m.) with Gutfeld! (260,000) rounding out the top five in the key A25-54 demo.

Fox News had the eight-most-watched cable news shows and 12 of the top 15 for the week of March 20.

MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell moved up two spots to No. 9 in total viewers with a 1.64 million total viewer average at 10 p.m. The Beat with Ari Melber shot up three spots to No. 10 in total viewers (1.56 million viewers at 6 p.m.), and Alex Wagner Tonight entered the top 15 (No. 15) for the first time in many weeks with a 1.355 million average at 9 p.m.

Additionally, Fox News had the top 12 cable news shows of the week and 14 of the top 15 among Adults 25-54, with The Beat making an entrance at No. 13 with a 151,000 A25-54 viewer average at 6 p.m.

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

Week of March 20 (Total Viewers)

Week of March 20 (Adults 25-54)