Cable News Ratings: Fox News Breaks Records, MSNBC Posts Significant Growth

Fox News finished far and above its competition in the ratings for the first quarter of 2017, with the network putting up the highest-rated quarter ever in cable news history in the total day viewership measure, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday. This marks 61 consecutive quarters that Fox News has finished number one among cable news networks in total day and primetime viewership.

Fox News averaged 1.72 million total day viewers, with 359,000 of those falling in the key adults 25-54 demo. CNN finished second with 826,000 total day viewers and 266,000 viewers in the demo. MSNBC came in third with 781,000 total day viewers and 185,000 viewers in the demo. Yet despite finishing third, MSNBC definitely has reason to celebrate. The network grew its viewership by 55 percent in total day viewers and 40 percent in the key demo compared to quarter one of 2016, no doubt boosted in part thanks to a surge in the ratings of “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Fox News grew 27 percent in total day viewers compared to last year and CNN grew 13 percent. In the key demo, Fox News was up 32 percent from the first quarter of 2016 while CNN grew 22 percent. It should be noted for comparison purposes, however, that during quarter one of 2016 CNN aired 13 presidential town halls and debates, which drew significant ratings for the network. But CNN did have its most-watched first quarter in 14 years, both in the key demo and in total viewers.

Fox News also finished number one in both primetime and daytime measures. In primetime, the network averaged 2.89 million viewers for the quarter, with 588,000 of those in the key demo. CNN was third in primetime viewers with 1.19 million viewers, but second in the demo with 411,000. MSNBC came in second in primetime viewers with 1.46 million million viewers and third in the demo with 347,000. In the daytime measure, Fox News averaged 1.99 million viewers, with 388,000 in the demo. CNN was second with 896,000 viewers and 253,000 in the demo. MSNBC finished third with 737,000 viewers and 147,000 in the demo.

In addition, Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” not only had its highest-rated quarter ever, but it broke all previous records in cable news history for the highest-viewership ever for any given program in a quarter. “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on CNN was also up in both key measures. Tapper is up 56 percent in the demo compared to the first quarter last year, and 39 percent in total viewers.

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