Fox News was the top-rated basic cable network in 2019, beating out MSNBC and ESPN by a mile in overall viewers, according to Deadline.
Fox News averaged 2.57 million viewers for each live show combined with DVR views for the same program in the next seven days (L+7), while the No. 2 channel, MSNBC, only had 1.8 million per show in the same timeframe. ESPN, meanwhile, won the coveted 18–49-year-old demographic, but was No. 3 in overall viewers.
Fox News was also the only network to gain viewers from the year prior, with overall viewership rising 3%. Rival cable news networks both lost viewers in 2019, with MSNBC viewership declining 3% and CNN declining 7%, Deadline noted.
Fox’s Hannity was the highest-rated cable news program of the year, with an average of 3.3 million viewers per episode. Fox News’ primetime lineup averaged 2.5 million viewers, according to Deadline.
Cable networks in decline
Overall cable network viewership has declined due to streaming services, including the new Disney+ platform. Younger viewers especially seem to prefer to stream their programming, according to 2017 data from Pew Research Center.
Most cable networks declined by double digits, with Disney Channel having the biggest drop, at 30% in the same year in which its streaming platform released, according to Deadline. However, it isn’t so much that Disney is losing viewers, apparently; rather, viewers are simply switching from the TV network to the streaming app and website.
Networks with live programming like cable news and sports fared best among cable networks, since streaming platforms usually have limited if any live content.
The biggest gain among cable networks was the Inspirational Network (INSP), which airs faith-based programming. INSP gained 12% in viewership.
Fox News remains strong
While competition does exist for conservative cable news in the form of channels like Newsmax TV and streaming outlets like One America News Network, Fox News has a long-established lineup of hosts who have become familiar to viewers.
Fox News also offers more mainstream views and has a variety of hosts, including some who are not even conservative (e.g., Juan Williams) and some who consistently criticize President Donald Trump (e.g., Chris Wallace).
In contrast, MSNBC and CNN hosts are nearly all liberal and left-leaning and do not offer much of an alternative to mainstream news on the big three networks.
With no disrupter in sight, Fox News can probably count on continuing to top cable news for some time to come.