Cable News Ratings: CNN, Fox News Continue to Grow at MSNBC’s Expense

Fox News remained the overwhelming primetime choice for cable news viewers during a busy second quarter of this year, and both it and a more competitive CNN were up double-digits in the key news demo vs. last year — pushing MSNBC farther down the ratings totem pole.

CNN had a strong quarter relative to the competition on a total-day basis, as it was up 31% in the news demo of adults 25-54 and 26% in total viewers, according to Nielsen estimates. FNC was about even (down 2% in 25-54, up 4% in total viewers) while MSNBC slid 17% in adults 25-54 and dipped 5% in total viewers.

MSNBC’s biggest news for the quarter was the announcement of former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams joining the network, which is still in the early months of Andrew Lack’s leadership as chairman.

Among individual programs for the quarter, Fox News could claim the top six in adults 25-54, led by “The O’Reilly Factor” (423,000) and “The Kelly File” (400,000). (“Kelly File” had a notable close to the quarter, as Megyn Kelly’s exclusive interviews with members of the Duggar family from “19 Kids and Counting” lifted her show to its first ever No. 1 monthly finish among cable news programs in the demo, edging past “O’Reilly”).

In total viewers, FNC was especially dominant as usual. It had the quarter’s top 14 programs, led by “The O’Reilly Factor” (2.456 million), “The Kelly File” (2.100 million) and “Special Report with Bret Baier” (1.882 million). “Rachel Maddow” led MSNBC (736,000 viewers), and “Anderson Cooper” carried CNN (664,000).

Among all ad-supported cable networks for the quarter, Fox News Channel ranked third in “live plus same-day” primetime average (1.603 million) and fourth in “most current” Nielsen estimates (1.641 million). TNT, boosted by the NBA Playoffs, led overall with a little over 2 million on average.

The March 30-June 28 ratings period included the announcements of numerous 2016 presidential bids and other big news including Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, major Supreme Court rulings and the South Carolina church shootings.


(Live plus same-day)

Adults 25-54
Fox News                            (301,000, up 14% from last year)
CNN                                     (195,000, up 25%)
MSNBC                               (130,000, down 18%)

Total Viewers
Fox News                            (1,603,000, up 1% from last year)
CNN                                     (560,000, up 22%)
MSNBC                               (512,000, down 10%)

(Live plus same-day)

Adults 25-54
Fox News                            (186,000, down 2% from last year)
CNN                                     (138,000, up 31%)
MSNBC                               (85,000, down 17%)

Total Viewers
Fox News                            (974,000, up 4% from last year)
CNN                                     (431,000, up 26%)
MSNBC                               (318,000, down 5%)

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