Week of May 17 Cable Network Ranker: Fox News Marks 14 Straight Weeks at No. 1, But Posts Week-to-Week Losses

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News was the most-watched cable network during the week of May 17, 2021, marking 14 straight weeks at No. 1 on cable in average total audience. FNC averaged 2.1 million viewers and 338,000 in the 25-54 demo during the 8-11 p.m. ET prime time period. In total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET), Fox was once again the only basic cable network to crack 1 million viewers (1.2 million), and averaged 197,000 in the 25-54 demographic, more than its cable news competition.

As has become the norm in recent weeks, Tucker Carlson Tonight drew the largest audience on cable news, an average of 2.9 million total viewers to go with 460,000 adults 25-54. TCT drew 3.2 million total viewers and 516,000 adults 25-54 the previous week.

Hannity finished in second, as has become the norm in recent months, followed by The Rachel Maddow Show, The Five, and The Ingraham Angle rounding out the top five.


Despite the victories, when compared with the previous week (May 10), Fox News slipped by -11% in average total prime time viewers, and fell -7% in the prime time demo. In total day, Fox News dropped -11% in total viewers, and -11% in adults 25-54.

CNN struggled in the ratings department even more. Cuomo Prime Time  and Don Lemon Tonight both saw their lowest-rated weeks of the year. The network as a whole shed -11% in total prime time viewers, shed -14% in the prime time demo, -11% in total day viewers and lost -15% in the total day demo from the prior week. CNN slid from No. 3 among basic cable networks in total day viewers to No. 5, and from No. 4 in total prime time viewers to No. 7.

MSNBC remained the second-most-watched network on basic cable in prime time viewers  The network held steady in total prime time viewers, and actually grew by +5% in the prime time demo, beating CNN in the process. MSNBC saw improvement in total day viewing, +1% in total viewers and +2% in adults 25-54 (the latter figure still not enough to move past CNN).

Week of May 17 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 2,100,000 1,483,000 629,000
• A25-54: 336,000 199,000 191,000




• Total Viewers: 1,165,000 842,000 569,000
• A25-54: 197,000 108,000 131,000




How about the larger basic cable landscape? After Fox News and MSNBC, ESPN, TNT, HGTV, TBS, CNN, USA, Discovery, and History rounded out the 10-most-watched cable networks in prime time. Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN, HGTV, CNN, TNT, ID, INSP, Food Network and History were the 10-most-watched cable networks in total day last week.

Week of May 17 basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)

Boosted by NBA late-regular season/early NBA Playoffs coverage, TNT was the top cable network among adults 25-54 in prime time (678,000), marking 3 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the prime time demo. ESPN, which also has broadcast rights to the NBA Playoffs, finished second by averaging 609,000 A25-54 in prime time. TBS, USA, Fox News, NBCSN, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery and Bravo round out the prime time top 10. CNN fell to No. 17 after being No. 13 the week before. MSNBC moved up to No. 16 after ranking No. 17 the week before.

ESPN captured the most adults 25-54 in total day. Following ESPN are TNT, Fox News, TBS, ID, HGTV, USA, Food Network, CNN and TV Land. MSNBC came in at No. 14 after finishing No. 16 the prior week.

Week of May 17 basic cable ranker (Adults 25-54)