You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox News Tops All of Cable Viewership for Quarter; CNN Up Triple-Digits in Primetime

As the presidential primary races heated up, cable news networks scored some big ratings achievements this winter, highlighted by Fox News Channel’s first-ever quarterly total-viewer victory among all cable networks and CNN’s most-watched quarter in seven years. All three cable news networks saw nice spikes, but CNN’s were by far the largest, as the network — buoyed by more debates and town hall events than its rivals —  closed the demo gap with Fox News and pulled away from MSNBC.

The first quarter of 2016 was highlighted by surprisingly strong performances in primary races by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the former the Republican front-runner and the latter giving Hillary Clinton a tougher battle than expected on the Democratic side. Both are credited with bringing millions of new voters to this primary season, and some of that heightened interest in the races has clearly resulted in higher ratings across the cable news board.

Fox News Channel, which aired the quarter’s top-rated debate on March 3 (16.83 million, including 5.45 million adults 25-54) and the most-watched primary night in cable news history (5 million viewers on March 15), had its highest-rated quarter in primetime since 2012 in both the demo (483,000) and total viewers (2.373 million), according to Nielsen’s “live plus same-day” averages for Dec. 28, 2015-March 27, 2016. It also led all cable networks in total viewers for the first time, with its “most current” average (2.40 million) well ahead of ESPN (2.08 million), USA (1.82 million) and others.

On a total-day basis, the network rose to No. 1 in total viewers (1.36 million) for the first time, rising 27% to its highest average in the network’s nearly 20-year history. It was followed in “most current” averages by Nickelodeon (1.27 million), Disney (1.11 million), Adult Swim (1.08 million) and HGTV (986,000).

Among series highlights, Fox News Channel claimed nine of the top 10 programs in adults 25-54 and top 14 programs in total viewers. “The O’Reilly Factor” continued as the No. 1 program in cable news and earned its highest-rated quarter in both total viewers (3.42 million) and adults 25-54 (598,000). “The Kelly File” had its most-watched quarter since its 2013 launch (2.52 million). And “Hannity” was up the most among the network’s programs, rising 35% in total viewers (to 1.88 million) and 39% in the demo (to 434,000) for its top-rated quarter since the new primetime lineup launched in 2013.

Also, “Fox & Friends,” with new co-host Ainsley Earhardt, had its most-watched quarter in more than two years (since the fall of 2013), while Sunday morning program “Media Buzz” had its top-rated quarter to date in both total viewers (1.26 million) and adults 25-54 (256,000). And at 6 p.m. ET weekday program “Special Report with Bret Baier” achieved its highest-rated quarter in the demo in nearly four years with 387,000 (since the fall of 2012) and its second most-watched quarter ever in total viewers (2.36 million).

CNN was celebrating a No. 2 finish across every daypart, delivering its most-watched quarter in total day in seven years (732,000) and its best primetime quarter since the fall of 2008 in both total viewers (1.42 million) and the demo (455,000), according to Nielsen’s “live plus same-day” averages.  Among the top 70 cable networks in primetime, it saw the biggest year-over-year increases — up 162% in total viewers and +139% in adults 25-54.

Relative to the competition, CNN pulled to its closest finish to Fox News in at least seven years in all categories and dayparts (including within about 30,000 adults 25-54 in primetime) and posted its biggest quarterly total-viewer advantage over MSNBC in primetime in eight years. CNN has now topped MSNBC in total-day for eight straight quarters (both total viewers and the demo), and in primetime it has beaten MSNBC for seven straight quarters in total viewers and eight straight in adults 25-54.

“Anderson Cooper 360” had its best total viewer and adults 25-54 demo delivery in more than seven years (since the fall of 2008). It ranked No. 2 in cable news for the 9 p.m. hour, up vs. last year by 83% in total viewers (to 1.1 million viewers) and 60% in adults 25-54 (to 334,000). Also up more than 50% in both categories was 10 p.m.’s “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” which beat MSNBC in the demo (260,000 vs. 209,000) for an eighth straight quarter.

The network continues to rise on Sundays, placing No. 2 in the morning with “Inside Politics with John King” (703,000 total viewers, including 198,000 adults 25-54), “State of the Union with Jake Tapper” (792,000 total viewers, including 225,000 adults 25-54), “Fareed Zakaria GPS” (855,000 viewers, including 223,000 adults 25-54) and “Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter” (809,000 total viewers, including 215,000 adults 25-54). And the series premiere of primetime docuseries “Race for the White House” in February became the most-watched CNN Original Series telecast ever in total viewers and key demos.

The best results of the quarter for MSNBC came in the morning race. “Morning Joe” spiked 84% over the first quarter of 2015 in adults 25-54 for its best delivery in the demo in three years, beating CNN in this category (151,000 vs. 137,000) as well as total viewers (585,000 vs. 460,000) even though CNN’s “New Day” had its highest-rated quarter to date.

Among other programs, MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow” edged out CNN’s regular programming in the weekday 9 p.m. hour among adults 25-54 (279,000 vs. 277,000) and also topped it in total viewers (1.166 million vs. 877,000). “Hardball With Chris Matthews” (937,000) and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (951,000) also topped regular CNN programming in total viewers, though not the demo. And “All In with Chris Hayes” was up 78% in the demo and 49% in total viewers for the quarter.

At the business networks, CNBC led Fox Business, but the gap was narrowed in total viewers during Business Day (208,000 vs. 133,000). Also, FBN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” scored its first ever quarterly win over CNBC in total viewers.

(Most current for Dec. 28, 2015-March 27, 2016)

Adults 25-54 ……. 2016 ………. 2015 ……… Difference
Fox News ………. 491,000 ….. 330,000 …….. +49%
CNN …………….  462,000 ….. 193,000 …….. +139%
MSNBC …………  231,000 ….. 137,000 ……… +69%

Total Viewers …… 2016 ……… 2015 ………… Difference
Fox News ……….. 2.400m …. 1.754m ………….. +37%
CNN ………………. 1.435m …..  548k …………. +162%
MSNBC …………..   902k …….  547k …………… +65%

(Most current for Dec. 28, 2015-March 27, 2016)

Adults 25-54 ……. 2016 ………. 2015 ……… Difference
Fox News ………. 273,000 ….. 211,000 …….. +29%
CNN …………….  219,000 ….. 148,000 …….. +139%
MSNBC …………  133,000 …… 86,000 ……… +55%

Total Viewers …… 2016 ……… 2015 ………… Difference
Fox News ……….. 1.357m …. 1.072m ………….. +27%
CNN ………………   735k …….  469k ………….. +57%
MSNBC …………..   506k …….  318k ………… +59%

Source: Nielsen

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • David Goodman

    WGA West's David Goodman on Agency Strategy: 'We'll Start Meeting as Soon as Possible'

    David Goodman, who was resoundingly re-elected president of the Writers Guild of America West on Monday, said the guild plans to meet with several talent agencies soon in an effort to ease the impasse over packaging fees and affiliated production. “Many agencies had indicated that they wanted to wait to see the results of the [...]

  • THE TITAN GAMES -- "The Titan

    'Titan Games' Renewed for Season 2 at NBC

    NBC has renewed the Dwayne Johnson-hosted competition series “The Titan Games” for a second season. The series features men and women battling opponents in head-to-head physical challenges designed by Johnson. Winners advance to Mt. Olympus, a test of speed, strength, agility and endurance. “When we launched ‘The Titan Games,’ we set out to create an [...]

  • David Goodman

    David Goodman Re-Elected President of Writers Guild of America West

    David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents. Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA [...]

  • first wives club BET

    TV Review: 'The First Wives Club' on BET Plus

    Launching a series based on a beloved property is harder than it seems. On the one hand, you get the immediate boost of name recognition to lure in preexisting fans. On the other, straying too far from the plot and/or spirit of the original risks sparking their righteous wrath. It’s a tricky balance to strike, [...]

  • Thomas Golubic GMS Conference

    Guild of Music Supervisors President: 'The Economics of the Job Don't Work Anymore'

    The Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS) hosted its 5th annual “State of Music in Media” conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Los Angeles Film School. Featuring a wide array of panel discussions on all manner of issues related to music in film, television and advertising, the confab drew top composers, music supervisors, licensing and [...]

  • Christopher Eccleston Anorexia

    Christopher Eccleston Reveals He Was 'Very Ill' With Anorexia While Filming 'Doctor Who'

    “Doctor Who” actor Christopher Eccleston has opened up about his anorexia, body dysmorphia and suicidal thoughts. Eccleston, who played the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, made the revelations in his forthcoming autobiography “I Love the Bones of You: My Father and the Making of Me.” “Many times I’ve wanted to reveal that I’m a lifelong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content