Week of Sept. 6 Cable Ranker: Fox News Remains No. 1 as Cable News Viewership Dips

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News Channel was the most-watched network on basic cable during the week of Sept. 6, 2021, both in total day and primetime dayparts. However, the network dropped to second place on basic cable in the total day demo, and remained second in the primetime demo behind ESPN.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Fox News averaged 2.27 million total viewers and 359,000 adults 25-54 in primetime last week. While far more than the cable news competition, that’s -14% and -17%, respectively, from what the network averaged the previous week in those measurements. To be fair, the week of Sept. 6 started with a Labor Day holiday. The previous week obviously did not.

In addition to primetime, Fox News averaged 1.38 million total viewers in total day, -11% from the prior week, but a large enough audience where FNC can successfully claim 30 consecutive weeks as the most-watched cable news network in the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. daypart. Fox News also averaged 226,000 adults 25-54 in total day, which is -13% from the prior week.


The Five finished the week as the most-watched cable news show with 3.08 million total viewers. Notably, The Five’s Thursday Sept. 9 telecast was No. 1 hour of the week in basic cable. President Biden’s remarks on fighting the pandemic aired during the 5 p.m. ET hour. The Five also posted 444,000 adults 25-54.

Tucker Carlson Tonight, which featured guest-hosts throughout the week, still delivered the highest-rated cable news show of the week among adults 25-54 (508,000 demo viewers).

On Saturday, during special coverage of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, FNC dominated the cable news competition beating CNN and MSNBC in every hour of the day in average total viewers (CNN beat Fox News and MSNBC in the primetime demo on 9/11).

MSNBC averaged 1.10 million total primetime viewers (No. 3 on basic cable), and 138,000 adults 25-54 in prime time (No. 27 ) this past week. That’s -13% and -5%, respectively, from what the network drew in those measurements in primetime the previous week.

MSNBC fell to No. 3 in total viewers during the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. total day daypart  (650,000), and finished No. 27 among adults 25-54 during total day (78,000) this past week. The network shed -13% in average total day audience and -7% in the total day demo from the previous week.

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show was the No. 5 cable news show of the week in total viewers, averaging 2.23 million total viewers.

CNN averaged 715,000 total viewers in prime time (No. 9 basic cable) and 532,000 in total day (No. 5 on basic cable) during the week of Sept. 6. When it came to adults 25-54, CNN averaged 169,000 viewers in primetime (No. 19) and 117,000 in total day (No. 10) this past week.

How do those figures stack up against the previous week? Well, the network shed -18% of its average total primetime audience, -16% in the primetime demo, -19% in total day viewers and -19% in the total day demo. More substantial losses than what its main competitors experienced.

And as has become custom during a fair chunk of 2021, CNN beat MSNBC in the key A25-54 demo last week, while MSNBC beat CNN in total viewers.

Week of Sept. 6 cable news ratings, Monday-Sunday (Nielsen live-same-day data):

• Total Viewers: 2,268,000 1,101,000 715,000
• A25-54: 359,000 138,000 169,000




• Total Viewers: 1,378,000 650,000 532,000
• A25-54: 226,000 78,000 117,000




How about the broader basic cable landscape?

When it came to average total viewers in primetime, the top 10 order is: Fox News, ESPN, MSNBC, HGTV, TLC, Hallmark, INSP, TBS, CNN and USA. In terms of most-watched cable nets in total day, ESPN climbed past MSNBC and into the No. 2 spot after Fox News. MSNBC ranks No. 3, followed by HGTV, CNN, Hallmark Channel, INSP, ID, Food Network and History.

The full basic cable ranker:

Week of Sept. 6 2021 (Total Viewers) 

ESPN was the top-rated basic cable network in primetime among adults 25-54 for the second consecutive week. It also moved past Fox News and into the top spot in total day. Fox News took second, both in primetime and in the total day demo. In primetime, Fox News is followed by TBS, TNT, HGTV, TLC, USA, Food Network, Adult Swim and Bravo. Among adults 25-54 in total day, ESPN and Fox News are followed by TNT, HGTV, Food Network, TBS, ID, USA, History and CNN rounding out the top 10.

Below, the cable ranker

Week of Sept. 6 2021 (Adults 25-54)