Week of May 24 Basic Cable Ranker: Fox News Dominates News Competition, Is No. 2 Basic Cable Network in Prime Time

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News was the second-most-watched cable network in prime time during the week of May 24, 2021, breaking its streak of 14 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on cable in prime time. FNC averaged just under 2 million viewers and 315,000 in the 25-54 demo during the 8-11 p.m. ET prime time period.

Fox News did remain No. 1 in average total viewers in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET), and was once again the only basic cable network to crack 1 million viewers (1.14 million) in the daypart. The network also averaged 196,000 in the 25-54 demographic, more than its cable news competition and steady vs. the prior week.

As has become the norm in spring 2021, Tucker Carlson Tonight drew the largest audience on cable news, an average of 2.8 million total viewers to go with 454,000 adults 25-54. TCT drew 2.9 million total viewers and 460,000 adults 25-54 the previous week.

Despite dominating its cable news competition yet again, and being one of the most-watched networks on cable TV, Fox News once again saw losses from the previous week. Compared with the previous week (May 17), Fox News fell -7% in average total prime time viewers, and -10% in the prime time demo. In total day, Fox News dropped -2% in total viewers, but only -1% in adults 25-54.

CNN continues to struggle in the ratings department relative to the early part of 2021 and 2020. The network shed -8% in total prime time viewers, -8% in the prime time demo, -2% in total day viewers and -2% in the total day demo from the prior week. Relative to the previous week, CNN held steady at No. 5 on basic cable in total day viewers, but fell from No. 7 in total prime time viewers to No. 9.

Still, top 10 is top 10!

MSNBC dropped to No. 3 on basic cable in prime time viewers, finishing behind Fox News and TNT, which dominated prime time cable last week thanks to its coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The network also finished No. 3 in total viewers across the 24-hour daypart (6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET).

MSNBC posted more week-to-week losses than its competition, shedding -9% in total prime time viewers, -15% in the prime time demo. MSNBC also dropped -5% in total day viewers and -5% in adults 25-54.

CNN beat MSNBC in the adults 25-54 demo, while MSNBC beat CNN in average total viewers this past week.

Week of May 24 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 1,959,000 1,351,000 763,000
• A25-54: 310,000 169,000 175,000




• Total Viewers: 1,145,000 804,000 557,000
• A25-54: 196,000 103,000 129,000




How about the entire basic cable landscape? After TNT and Fox News, MSNBC, HGTV, ESPN, Discovery, TLC, History, CNN, and INSP rounded out the 10-most-watched cable networks for the week in prime time.

Fox News, TNT, MSNBC, HGTV, CNN, ESPN, Food Network, ID, INSP and History were the 10-most-watched cable networks in total day last week.

Below, the ranker:

Week of May 24 basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)

Driven by NBA Playoffs coverage, TNT was the dominant cable network among adults 25-54 in prime time (1,162,000) for the 4th consecutive week. ESPN finished second in the prime time demo (464,000). HGTV, TBS, Fox News, USA Discovery, NBCSN, Food Network and TLC  round out the prime time top 10. CNN fell to No. 20 after finishing No. 17 the week before. MSNBC fell even further, No. 22 the week after finishing No. 16 across basic cable in the prime time demo.

TNT captured the most adults 25-54 in total day. Following ESPN and TNT are Fox News, HGTV, ID, , TBS, Food Network, USA, TV Land, and Comedy Central. CNN dropped out of the top 10 (No. 11), while MSNBC finished at No. 18.

Below, the ranker:

Week of May 24 basic cable ranker (Adults 25-54)