Fox News had a record-breaking 2020, becoming the first cable news network to end the year averaging more than three million viewers in prime time. Fox also remained the most-watched network on basic cable for the fifth consecutive year.
In total day, Fox News won overall and demo viewers, with 1.89 million total (up 35% from 2019), and 350,000 in the demo (up 46%). MSNBC pulled in an average 1.24 million total viewers, a 27% increase, and 202,000 in the demo, a 33% increase. CNN had the fewest total viewers, 1.13 million, but showed the most growth, with a 75% increase. In the demo, CNN placed second, averaging 312,000, a 91% increase.
Fox News prime time viewership averaged 3.61 million, up 45% from 2019, and 645,000 in the demo, a 65% increase. MSNBC averaged 2.14 million viewers in primetime, a 24% increase, and 360,000 in the demo, a 29% increase. CNN drew 1.79 million in total viewers, a whopping 85% increase from 2019. The demo increase was even more notable, with an average 521,000 younger viewers, up 104% from 2019.
Despite Fox’s 2020 dominance in overall ratings, a post-election shift is worth examining. Since November 4, CNN has averaged the most viewers overall and in the key demographic of viewers age 25-54, beating Fox in the demo for such a stretch for the first time in 19 years. CNN also showed significantly more growth in key metrics than both Fox and MSNBC, and was the most-watched network in all of daytime cable during the fourth quarter of the year. CNN broke its own ratings records in 2020, and had its best ratings year in the network’s 40-year history.
Sean Hannity helped Fox reach the top spot, with his nightly show Hannity drawing the most total viewers (4.39 million), and surpassing the all-time record for the highest-rated year in cable news history. Tucker Carlson also had a strong showing, with Tucker Carlson Tonight getting its highest-rated year ever, and finishing as the most-watched cable news show in the key demographic of viewers age 25-54 with 798,000.
Both shows were the first cable news programs in history to average more than 4 million viewers.
CNN’s prime time shows had their best ratings years ever, thanks in part to Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Both Anderson Cooper 360, at 8 p.m., and CNN Tonight, at 10 p.m., had more demo viewers than MSNBC.
Rachel Maddow had a very strong finish to the year, with The Rachel Maddow Show pulling in in the most viewers in all of prime time on multiple occasions. Overall, Maddow ranked fifth in overall viewers for all of cable news, with an average 3.22 million viewers a night, and 522,000 in the younger demo.
Also on MSNBC, Joy Reid‘s The ReidOut – the first-ever prime time cable news show hosted by a Black woman – had a great showing; despite launching in July, it cracked the top 10 most-watched shows in cable news, with an average 2.17 million total viewers, and 363,000 in the demo. Morning Joe, with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, had a run of winning the early morning in both overall viewers and in the demo in the last few months of the year, although Fox and Friends was starting to pick up more demo viewers by mid-December.
Fox had six of the 10 most-watched shows on cable news: Hannity (1st overall, 2nd in the demo), Tucker Carlson Tonight (2nd overall, 1st in the demo), The Five (3rd overall, 4th in the demo), The Ingraham Angle (4th overall, 3rd in the demo), Special Report with Bret Baier (6th overall, 5th in the demo), and The Story with Martha MacCallum (7th overall, 6th in the demo).
MSNBC had the other four most-watched shows in 2020: The Rachel Maddow Show (5th overall, 7th in the demo), The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (8th overall, 15th in the demo), The ReidOut (9th overall, 16th in the demo), and Deadline: White House (10th overall, 28th in the demo).
In the demo, CNN had three shows in the top 10 most-watched: Cuomo Prime Time (8th in the demo, 21st in overall viewers), Anderson Cooper 360 (9th in the demo, 22nd overall), and Erin Burnett OutFront (10th in the demo, 25th overall).
Over on the business networks, Fox Business rang in with its highest rated year in history in total day. That was not enough to beat its rival, CNBC, which came first in the business network ratings for the year.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]