For the week of March 8, Fox News Channel topped the cable news landscape, both in total day and prime time among adults 25-54 and in total viewers. This is a rare win for the network in 2021 in those measurements across multiple dayparts.
Fox News also remains the top-rated in all of cable in total prime time viewers year-to-date and notched its 4th consecutive week as No. 1 in all of cable in total viewers.
Additionally, Tucker Carlson moved back into the No. 1 slot on cable news, finishing the week as the top program in total viewers (3.5 million) and among adults 25-54 (591,000). Hannity ranked No. 2 on cable news in the demo, and No. 3 in total viewers.
In terms of the network as a whole — Compared to the prior week, Fox News grew +4% in total prime time viewers, and an impressive +12% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network stayed flat % in total viewers, and grew +8% 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 9) featured early Covid-19 pandemic coverage, which caused Americans to flocked to their TV sets. It also means Fox (and its competitors) was bound to see year-over-year ratings drop off this past week. And that’s what happened. Fox News dropped -30% in total prime time viewers, -56% in the prime time demo, -35% in total day viewers, and -46% in the total day demo.
CNN once again finished second in the prime time demo behind Fox News this past week, but finished third in total viewers behind both Fox News and MSNBC.
The network did manage to show viewership growth in the prime time daypart, but delivered its smallest average total day audience of 2021 to-date.
Compared to the prior week, CNN grew +3% in total prime time viewers, and +9% in the prime time demo, but in total day, the network fell -4% in total viewers, and stayed flat in the demo. Compared to the same week the previous year, CNN fell -54% in total prime time viewers, and -51% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -35% in total viewers from last year, and dropped -47% in the total day demo.
In addition to early pandemic coverage, CNN aired a Democratic primary debate during the year-ago week. Needless to say, a year-over-year ratings decline was inevitable.
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 is still poised to finish the quarter No. 1 in the demo. Q1 2021 ratings will be out later this month.
Once again the second-most-watched network on all of basic cable, MSNBC had a less than stellar ratings week. At least when compared with recent history. Rachel Maddow dropped out of the No. 1 spot in the cable news host hierarchy, and the network saw losses from the prior week: -2% in total prime time viewers, -2% in the prime time demo, -3% in total day viewers and -4% in the total day demo.
Like Fox News and CNN, MSNBC was very likely going to experience poor ratings relative to the same week in 2020. The network finished the week down -19% in total prime time viewers, -40% in the prime time demo, -16% in total day viewers and -39% in the total day demo.
The week of March 8, 2021, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live+same-day data):
|PRIME TIME||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||2,517,000||1,904,000||1,311,000|
|TOTAL DAY||Fox News||MSNBC||CNN|
|• Total Viewers:||1,304,000||1,085,000||865,000|
Outside of cable news’ big three, HGTV, ESPN, TBS, History, Hallmark, Discovery and TLC round out the weekly top 10 most-watched basic cablers in prime time. In total day, Fox, MSNBC and CNN are followed by HGTV, ID, ESPN, Hallmark, Food Network, History and INSP.