Headline News falls behind despite rising viewership

Fox News Channel eclipsed CNN in January for the first time as the most-watched cable news net for total day and primetime — even though it’s in fewer homes.

According to Nielsen numbers for the month, the upstart Fox news net averaged 840,000 households in primetime for the month, up 80% from last January. But Fox News’ gains didn’t come at the expense of CNN, which, with an average of 757,000 households, was up 19% in primetime from last January. MSNBC also saw gains, averaging 293,000 households in primetime, a jump of 7% year-to-year.

Even though the overall news pie increased year-to-year, it’s impressive that after only 5½ years, Fox News, which is available in 9 million fewer homes than CNN, now tops CNN in viewership.

In total day, Fox News averaged 539,000 households, up an impressive 110% from last year. CNN averaged 525,000 households, an increase of 54% from last January. MSNBC averaged 254,000 households, a 28% gain year-to-year.

Among the key news demo of adults 25-54 in primetime, Fox News also ranked No. 1, averaging 415,000 viewers in the demo, up 116% year-to-year. CNN averaged 290,000 viewers 25-54, up 36%. MSNBC attracted 162,000 viewers in the demo, a dip of 7% from last January.

The revamped Headline News saw year-to-year gains across the board. The news net averaged 181,000 households in primetime and 197,000 in total day, a jump of 27% and 46%, respectively, year-to-year. Among adults 25-54, the net averaged 121,000 viewers in primetime, a jump of 61% over last January.

Meanwhile, CNBC — wounded by the ailing economy — continues to see year-to-year declines. The financial news cabler averaged 223,000 households in primetime and 219,000 households in total day, a drop of 22% and 23%, respectively, from last January.

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