Week of Oct. 18 Cable Network Ranker: Fox News Marks 36 Straight Weeks at No. 1 in Total Day Viewers; Sports Networks Dominate in Younger Demos

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel continues to attract tons of viewers across the 24-hour day. According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen, the network averaged nearly 1.42 million total viewers in total day, making it the most-watched basic cable network in the Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-6 a.m. time period for the 36th consecutive week.  The network also averaged 228,000 adults 25-54 in total day, No. 3 on basic cable behind sports-driven networks ESPN and TBS. Relative to the previous week (Oct. 11), Fox News grew +2% in average total day viewers and +1% in the total day demo.

In primetime, Fox News averaged 2.35 million total viewers (No. 3 on basic cable) and 348,000 adults 25-54 (also No. 5 on basic cable) last week. That’s fewer total viewers and adults 25-54 in primetime than ESPN, FS1 and sports-driven TBS and TNT, however, it’s more than main competitors CNN and MSNBC combined. Fox News grew +2% in average total viewers but shed -2% among adults 25-54 from what the network averaged in those two measurements in primetime the prior week.

Carried by its primetime broadcasts of MLB’s 2021 National League Championship Series, TBS was the most-watched cable network in primetime for the second consecutive week, drawing an average of 3.19 million total viewers in the daypart. TBS finished second in primetime and total day among adults 25-54 (1.18 million primetime/333,000 total day). ESPN finished No. 1 among adults 25-54 in primetime (1.38 million) and in total day (445,000).

Tucker Carlson Tonight marked its second consecutive week as the No. 1 cable news show (3.02 million total viewers/464,000 adults 25-54). Fox News’ The Five finished No. 2 in average total viewers, averaging 3.01 million and 418,000 adults 25-54. Hannity remained the No. 3 cable news show, both in average total viewers ( 2.76 million) and adults 25-54 (400,000), followed by Special Report with Bret Baier (2.28 million) and The Ingraham Angle (2.18 million) rounding out the top 5 in average total viewers. Fox News had 13 of the 15-most-watched shows on cable news for the third consecutive week. MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show finished No. 7 in total viewers, and was once again the top non-Fox News show on cable news, averaging 2.04 million total viewers for the week.

The aforementioned MSNBC averaged 1.21 million total primetime viewers (No. 5 on basic cable), and 133,000 adults 25-54 in prime time (No. 28 on basic cable) this past week. That’s steady in total viewers and but a -5% drop-off in the key A25-54 demo from what the network drew in primetime the previous week. In fact, the week of Oct. 18, 2021 was MSNBC’s lowest-rated week in the primetime demo since Oct. 2015. Separately, MSNBC averaged 696,000 total viewers in the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. total day daypart (No. 4 overall), but only 78,000 adults 25-54 (No. 29 overall) in the time period this past week. That’s +3% in average total day audience and +5% in the total day demo. MSNBC beat CNN in average total viewers, but came up short among adults 25-54, both in total day and in primetime.

CNN averaged 735,000 total viewers in prime time (No. 10 on basic cable) and 516,000 in total day (No. 8 on basic cable) during the week of Oct. 18. When it came to adults 25-54, the network averaged 148,000 viewers in primetime (No. 24 ) and 105,000 in total day (No. 15 on basic cable). How do those figures stack up against the previous week? Pretty well. Compared to the prior week, CNN grew by +11% in average total primetime viewers, and +2% in the primetime demo. The network improved by +7% in total day viewers and +3% in the total day demo. CNN managed to average more adults 25-54 in total day and in prime than MSNBC, but failed to match its main rival in average total viewers across the dayparts.

Week of Oct. 18, 2021 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 1,422,000 696,000 516,000
• A25-54: 228,000 78,000 105,000




• Total Viewers: 2,348,000 1,209,000 735,000
• A25-54: 348,000 133,000 148,000




Below, the most-watched basic cable networks for the week. The left column is ranked by most to fewest total primetime viewers, and the right column is ranked by most to fewest viewers across total day (6 a.m-6 a.m.).

Week of Oct. 18 (Average Total Viewers)

Here’s a second cable network ranker, sorted by most to fewest adults 25-54. The left column is primetime, the right is total day.

Week of Oct. 18 (Adults 25-54)