Fox News Dominates Cable News Ratings in 2014; MSNBC Tumbles

Is Bill O’Reilly More Gun-Shy About

CNN second in key news demo for both primetime, total-day

In a generally overall down year for the cable news genre, Fox News remained the dominant ratings force in 2014, while CNN made some meaningful demo strides relative to a sagging MSNBC.

Behind the highest-rated programs in cable news — including “The O’Reilly Factor,” which was again top dog among all programs — Fox News finished on top in both total viewers and the adults 25-54 news demo for a 13th straight year, according to Nielsen’s “most current” estimates through Dec. 26.

Fox News was also the only cable newser up in the demo in primetime, as it opened up bigger advantages over the runner-up network in both 25-54 and total viewers.

MSNBC was down across the board, including declines in the demo of nearly 20%, and its prexy Phil Griffin vowed to make changes in 2015.

And while CNN fell off by 8% in overall primetime viewership, it held steady year-to-year in adults 25-54 and moved up to second in numerous dayparts. In both total viewers and the key demo, it finished ahead of MSNBC for the first time in three years.

Combined, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC averaged 1.8 million viewers total-day (down 5% from 2013) and 2.85 million in primetime (down 4%). Among adults 25-54, they were down 8% in total-day and 5% in primetime.

(While these declines aren’t horrible, the genre as a whole took a bigger hit if you included Headline News, which was down 16% in primetime vs. last year).

The most meaningful change from a ranking standpoint in 2014 was CNN leap-frogging MSNBC in the demo during primetime (187,000 vs. 174,000), with the former flat and the latter down 17%. MSNBC saw both “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “The Lawrence O’Donnell Show” deliver all-time lows, while CNN’s 10 p.m. hour (primarily “CNN Tonight”) also hit some lows.

The general downward trend in traditional viewership of the cable news networks in recent years has contributed to some record or lowest-in-year performances — which, of course, each network’s rivals were more than happy to point out.

CNN posted its all-time low primetime average in total viewers as well as its lowest-ever total-day tune-in among adults 25-54. MSNBC hit a nine-year low in total viewers and a seven-year low in the demo in total day, while in primetime it hit its lowest 2+ delivery since 2007 and its lowest demo delivery since 2006. Fox News saw its smallest total-day delivery among adults 25-54 since 2001, and its smallest primetime total-viewer count since 2008.

On the other hand, here are some of the positive takeaways from 2014:

Fox News: The network had the top five programs in cable news in both total viewers and adults 25-54. In total viewers, “O’Reilly Factor” (2.667 million) was followed by “The Kelly File” (2.204 million), “The Five” (2.057 million), “Special Report with Bret Baier” (1.985 million) and “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” (1.749 million). And in the demo, “O’Reilly” (426,000) was followed by “Kelly File” (374,000), “The Five” (324,000), “Hannity” (311,000) and “Special Report” (303,000).

In primetime for the year, Fox News ranked second in total viewers (behind only ESPN) among all ad-supported basic cable networks.

And among all cablers in total viewers, Fox News Channel was the most-watched network from 9 to 11 a.m. ET (“America’s Newsroom”), 5-6 p.m. ET (“The Five”), 6-7 p.m. ET (“Special Report with Bret Baier”) and 8-9 p.m. ET (“The O’Reilly Factor”).

“O’Reilly Factor” marked its 15th consecutive year as the No. 1 cable news program in its timeslot in both adults 25-54 and total viewers, and it’s the No. 1 show in cable news for a 14th straight year in the demo and 13th straight in total viewers.

And in its first full year, the Megyn Kelly-hosted “Kelly File” stood as the only primetime program in cable news up in its timeslot (9-10 p.m. ET) vs. last year in both total viewers (10%) and the 25-54 demo (5%).

CNN: “New Day” tied with HLN’s “Morning Express with Robin Meade” in adults 25-54 (104,000) to edge ahead of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (100,000), marking the first second-place demo finish in the time period for CNN since 2008.

CNN opened up some distance on MSNBC in dayside programming (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), winning by 37% in total viewers (491,000 vs. 359,000) and by a big 83% in 25-54 (121,000 vs. 66,000).

Thanks to an increased emphasis on original series, CNN was able to shave its median age in primetime by 2 years (to 58), making it younger than both Fox News (68) and MSNBC (61) for the first time. This was in part due to more time-shifted viewing, as CNN Original Series posted gains from “live” to “live +7” of 52% in adults 25-54 (291,000 vs. 191,000).

MSNBC: The network drew more total viewers than CNN in primetime for a fifth straight year, with both “The Rachel Maddow Show” (again the network’s No. 1 show) and “Hardball with Chris Matthews” beating CNN in total viewers every month of the year.

MSNBC continues to attract the most diverse audience in cable news, ranking No. 1 among cable news networks in Hispanic viewers 25-54 during weekday primetime. Among African-Americans, MSNBC says it draws twice as many viewers as CNN and more than seven times as many than Fox News.


(in millions)


Adults 25-54
Fox News            309,000 (up 2%)
CNN                     187,000 (even)
MSNBC               174,000  (down 17%)
HLN                     118,000  (down 16%)

Total Viewers
Fox News             1.779 million (even)
MSNBC                   600,000     (down 8%)
CNN                         528,000      (down 8%)
HLN                         337,000      (down 16%)


Adults 25-54
Fox News            216,000 (down 4%)
CNN                     127,000 (down 4%)
MSNBC               110,000 (down 17%)
HLN                     106,000 (down 6%)

Total Viewers
Fox News             1.058 million (down 4%)
CNN                         402,000      (down 3%)
MSNBC                    350,000      (down 12%)
HLN                          259,000      (down 13%)

Source: Nielsen (“most current”: Dec. 30, 2013-Dec. 26, 2014)


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  1. nancy says:

    I’m a life long republican, having said that, I watch MSNBC and CNN. I do NOT watch FOX news because they are drinking from the well of Trump’s koolade. For obvious reasons MONEY and ratings. I’m an American 1st and foremost. 4 years of Hilary are better than ONE day of Trump for this Country. Those supreme court justices will survive the 4 years. America will not survive w Trump. Therefore, because I did NOT drink the Koolade, I no Longer watch FOX news.

  2. Glena Miller says:

    Dish and FOX – Stunning example of pure greed on both sides resulting in very unhappy viewers. What happened to the idea of customer service? Maybe it’s time to divorce both entities.

  3. It quickly becomes obvious as soon as it was claimed that there was an anonymous source on the Killing cop story that the author of Killing Jesus, Killing Lincoln, Killing Christmas is the anonymous source.

  4. Fre says:

    There are several reasons Fox Cable News has been #1 for so many years running……
    it’s far better than the very bias news media that cares far more about their Ideology than it does, actual news and….. ‘us’ the viewer., you can view ‘segments’ of the shows via each show. You can also visit and search for alternative channels and contacts for Dish to voice your opinion.

  5. Rozann says:

    DISH AND FOX need to stop this power play which is probably around MONEY and CONTROL and let the average people watch the programing they want. We watch FOX and rely on it for news. It is sad that the 2 can’t be reasonable and do the RIGHT thing for the people. Americans speak out!

  6. Tom McCort says:

    Yo, Vee Butterfield, like you I’m going through Fox withdrawal. Try channel 223 on DISH. It doesn’t have the glitz and gorgeous blondes, but does have a conservative viewpoint.

  7. John says:

    Fox News is blatantly biased, knows it, and doesn’t try to pull gimmicks. CNN tries to follow the latest and dumbest attention grabbing scheme and fills spare time with half baked social justice programs. MSNBC is irrelevant garbage that overtly tries to get everyone’s attention but in such an obvious way, you’d roll your eyes just channel surfing. HLN is nancy grace and women cooking.

  8. Alex says:

    If Comcast and NBC/U wasn’t run by a bunch of liberals, Griffin’s ass would have been gone by now. The suits at Comcast don’t care about MSNBC’s ratings, they’re only interested in the Comcast/Time Warner merger. The suits at NBC/U don’t care about MSNBC’s ratings, they’re worried about their high paying jobs. Griffin’s fat ass will be at MSNBC for as long as he wants.

    • Atilla Thehun says:

      For a fraction of a second, I thought Roberts would demand a balanced approach to news. But you watch anything that ends with “NBC” and you get left wing propaganda to the point that it’s misrepresentation for them to call themselves a news channel. What the heck, as long as people keep their cable, I guess he’s happy.

  9. Leo Cardinal says:

    Just a matter of time before the left puts a stop to metrics like this.

    • Vee Butterfield says:

      There was a Variety article a couple of days ago that said that MSNBC was ahead of CNN. It’s interesting how some “news” reports contradict each other. It also mentioned MSNBC’s “diverse” audience” made up a lot of minorities was causing it’s ratings to go up. I wonder how the DISH vs FOX NEWS problem this past ten days has effected FOX NEWS ratings?? I’m having a real hard time finding a good alternative to FOX NEWS, CNN doesn’t quite cut it. MSNBC is garbage and Al Jazeria (established by Al Gore, and his name is no longer associated with it??) is so far to the left that it is entertaining to watch.

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