Week of May 3 Cable Ranker: Fox News Marks 12 Straight Weeks as Most-Watched Network, But Sees Week-to-Week Viewer Decline

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News was the most-watched cable network during the week of May 3, 2021, averaging nearly 2.2 million viewers and 343,000 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 cable net to crack 1 million viewers (1.2 million), and averaged 202,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

As has become the norm in recent weeks, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged the largest audience on cable news, 2.9 million total viewers to go with 454,000 adults 25-54. Carlson drew 2.9 million total viewers, but 502,000 adults 25-54 the previous week.

Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity and The Rachel Maddow Show were the top three shows on cable news for the week in total viewers. The Five finished ahead of MSNBC’s powerhouse program among adults 25-54.

Sean Hannity‘s interview with Caitlyn Jenner gave his program a lift last week.

Compared to the prior week (April 26), Fox News shed -4% of its average total prime time audience, and fell -7% in the prime time demo. In total day, Fox News fell -3% in total viewers, and lost -4% of its adults 25-54 audience.

Despite this renewed dominance over CNN and MSNBC on the 2021 ratings front, Fox News still isn’t quite where it was at this time last year (nor is anyone else, for that matter). The comparable week in 2020 (week of May 4) featured wall-to-wall Covid-19 pandemic coverage, which caused Americans to flock to their TV sets. Additionally, all three networks aired the White House daily coronavirus task force briefings. There was just more news in general at this time last year, with Trump and 2020 being a presidential election year.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to find that Fox News shed double-digit percent of its audience from the comparable week in 2020. The network shed -39% of its average total prime time audience, -36% of its audience in the prime time demo; and in total day, the network fell -38% in total viewers, and -35% in the demo.

Without a major breaking news event to broadcast, CNN saw additional audience drop off in total day and dayside. In fact, CNN (and MSNBC) marked their lowest-rated weeks in total day since December 2019.

CNN shed -11% of its total day audience and -17% of its total day demo audience from the previous week. The network also saw losses in prime time, dropping -18% in total viewers, and -30% in the A25-54 demo vs. the previous week.  CNN slipped from 3rd to 4th  among basic cable networks in total day viewers, but climbed from 5th to 4th in total prime time viewership.

Compared to the same week in 2020, CNN shed -39% of its total prime time audience and dropped -47% in the prime time demo. In total day, the network fell -40% in total viewers from last year, shed -43% in the total day demo.

Audience drop off will likely continue for all 3 major cable newsers (pending a major breaking news event) as the weather improves and coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

MSNBC returned to No. 2 on basic cable in total prime time viewers after the NFL Draft lifted ESPN to No. 2 the previous week.  Like CNN, MSNBC fell from the prior week in total day. The network shed -4% in total day viewers and -11% in the total day demo. MSNBC lost -9% in prime time viewers,  and -18% from the prime time demo vs. the prior week.

Versus the same week in 2020, MSNBC shed -19% of its average total prime time audience, -26% of its prime time demo audience, fell -25% in total day viewers and -34% in the total day demo. Losses not as severe as those felt by Fox News and CNN, but MSNBC continues to have issues capturing the under-55 set.

Fox News, MSNBC, HGTV, CNN, History, ESPN, TNNT, Discovery, INSP and TBS were the 10-most-watched cable networks in prime time last week. Fox News, MSNBC, HGTV, CNN, ID, INSP, ESPN, History, Food Network and Hallmark Channel were the 10-most-watched cable networks in total day last week.

Boosted by NBA late-regular season coverage, TNT was the top cable network among adults 25-54 in prime time last week. Following are fellow WarnerMedia network TBS, ESPN, HGTV, Fox News, USA, Food Network, Bravo, Discovery and History round out the top 10 cable networks among adults 25-54 in prime time. CNN fell down to No. 16, while MSNBC finished No. 17.

ESPN captured the most A25-54 in total day. Following ESPN are Fox News, ID, HGTV, TBS, TNT, Food Network, USA, CNN and TV Land round out the top 10 cable networks among adults 25-54 in prime time. MSNBC finished No. 15.

The week of April 26, 2021, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

PRIME TIME Fox News MSNBC CNN
• Total Viewers: 2,161,000 1,502,000 921,000
• A25-54: 343,000 198,000 207,000

 

 

 

TOTAL DAY Fox News MSNBC CNN
• Total Viewers: 1,171,000 850,000 617,000
• A25-54: 202,000 109,000 149,000

 

 

 

Week of May 3 basic cable ranker (Total Viewers)

 

Week of May 3 basic cable ranker (Adults 25-54)

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