“Fox News beats its cable news competitors in the ratings” has become something of an evergreen headline in large part because it is a true statement on a near-weekly basis.
In fact, the latest ratings data from Neilsen Media Research for the week of Dec. 6-12 showed that — for the 17th week in a row — Fox News actually had more viewers than both CNN and MSNBC combined.
Not only is Fox dominating its cable news rivals, but the network has maintained a comfortable lead in terms of ratings over all of cable TV, finishing the week at number one in total-day viewers for all of basic cable for the 43rd consecutive week.
While Fox yet again took the top spot for total-day viewers with an average of about 1.5 million viewers, it was followed by the Hallmark Channel and ESPN, with MSNBC coming in fourth with 684,000, and CNN in sixth place with an average of 501,000 viewers.
A report from Adweek showed that the dominance of Fox News over its basic cable rivals, both news and non-news alike, also carried over to the key demographic targeted by advertisers, adults aged 25-54.
Among that key demo, Fox came in second with an average of 239,000 viewers, losing out only to ESPN with 357,000 viewers in that target audience on average. For comparison, CNN drew an average of 101,000 , and MSNBC had only 74,000 viewers in that particular demographic.
As for the primetime hours, Fox News totaled 2.35 million total viewers compared to MSNBC’s 1.16 million and CNN’s 585,000. Among adults 25-54, Fox News averaged 367,000 in primetime while MSNBC had 131,000, and CNN had 120,000 viewers on average.
Overall, Fox News programs claimed all of the spots in the top five most-watched programs among cable news and accounted for 14 of the top 15 shows, with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow being the only non-Fox show in the bunch, ranking seventh among all viewers and 13th among the key demo group.
News programming is key
The dominance of Fox News over both its cable news rivals and nearly all of the rest of basic cable is something that Variety recently conducted a deep dive into, at least in terms of the market share of basic cable that all of the cable news channels combined have gained in recent years.
Currently in 2021, political and opinion news programming accounts for an astonishing 83% of the top 5,000 most-watched programs across all of cable, a remarkable increase in comparison to the 57% market share such programming had in 2016.
Part of that can almost certainly be attributed to the rise and ongoing saga of former President Donald Trump, who was the subject of intense cable news coverage before, during, and even still after his tenure in the White House.
It would be interesting to see if Variety — or really any other outlet — would dive even deeper into those numbers to determine how the individual market share of the top three cable news channels has changed over that same five-year span, and whether the intensely partisan or more neutral coverage of the former president has paid off or backfired with more or fewer viewers on average.