Week of Sept. 28 Cable Ranker: Fox News, MSNBC Set Network Records

By A.J. Katz 

Driven by its record-setting cable news coverage of the first presidential debate, Fox News was the most-watched network on cable TV and the second-most-watched across all of TV (behind ABC) for the week of Sept. 28.

Additionally, FNC ran its streak to 39 straight weeks as the most-watched network in total day, delivering 2.3 million viewers and 458,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

Fox News’ 5.34 million total viewer average in prime time represents the second-most-watched week in Fox News history (only behind Iraq War – March, 17, 2003), and its 1.16 million adults 25-54 average in prime time represents the largest audience from that measurement since the week of the 2016 election.


However, the network did finish No. 2 across cable when it came to drawing adults 25-54, both in prime time and in total day. ESPN drew the most adults 25-54 this past week.

Tuesday night’s presidential debate attracted 17.8 million viewers to Fox and 5.35 million in the younger A25-54 demo, making it the second-highest-rated telecast in FNC’s history.

CNN had a great ratings week in its own right. It was the third-most-watched network on cable, only behind Fox News and ESPN, and averaged more prime-time viewers than MSNBC, a rarity, with a big-time ratings performance driven by live presidential debate coverage, a telecast which drew 8.3 million total viewers and 3.5 million adults 25-54 from 9:03-10:39 p.m. ET.

Then, there were the myriad breaking news stories.

Speaking of “breaking news stories,” CNN was the top cable news network in the demo and total day viewers on Saturday for continued coverage of President Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis. CNN also won Sunday in the total day demo and split ratings honors with Fox News in prime time (more adults 25-54, fewer total viewers).

CNN was the third-most-watched network on cable among adults 25-54, both in total day and in prime time, behind only ESPN and Fox News in both dayparts.

MSNBC finished third among cable newsers for the week, third when it came to presidential debate coverage, delivering 7.2 million total viewers (the network’s largest debate audience ever) and 1.7 million adults 25-54 in the 9:03-10:39 p.m. ET time period.

MSNBC finished No. 4 in total prime-time viewers across cable, and climbed past ESPN to take No. 3 in total day viewers for the week.

NBC’s politics-focused cabler took fourth place across cable among adults 25-54, both in total day and in prime-time viewers.

Despite these third-place finishes, MSNBC actually experienced its highest-rated week ever in total day viewers (1.58 million average from 6 a.m.-6 a.m. ET).


Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers, prime time:

• Total Viewers: 5,349,000 2,881,000 2,887,000
• A25-54: 1,169,000 539,000 870,000




Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers, total day:

• Total Viewers: 2,309,000 1,578,000 1,592,000
• A25-54: 458,000 280,000 427,000




Week of Sept. 28 Ranker (Total Viewers)

The A25-54 ranker:

Week of Sept. 28 Cable Ranker (Adults 25-54)