Week of Jan. 25 Cable News Ratings: Fox News, MSNBC and CNN Can Each Lay Claim to Being No. 1

By A.J. Katz 

Despite having finished the month in third place for the first time in 20 years, Fox News managed to close January 2021 strong.

It was the most-watched cable network in prime time for the week of Jan. 25, averaging 2.6 million total viewers. According to live plus same day data from Nielsen, Fox News averaged 1.6 million viewers in total day, No. 2 on cable news. Fox News also averaged 227,000 adults 25-54 in total day, and 422,000 adults 25-54 in prime time, also No. 2 on cable news.

Speaking of prime time, Tucker Carlson Tonight moved past CNN and averaged the largest adults 25-54 audience last week, 585,000 viewers. Additionally, the Fox News 8 p.m. show was the No. 2 cable news program in total viewers, delivering 3.5 million.

Who was No. 1? That would be MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

Speaking of MSNBC, NBC’s left-leaning politics cable net climbed past CNN and into first place among total day viewers, averaging nearly 1.4 million across the 24-hour day this past week. However, the network fell from second place to 3rd place among adults 25-54, averaging 339,000 in prime time and 209,000 in total day.

MSNBC was the second-ranked cable network for the month of January.

CNN, the No. 1 cable network during the month of January, dropped from 1st place to 3rd place in total viewers. The week-to-week audience decline isn’t completely shocking. The network drew record-setting ratings on inauguration day, and matching those types of numbers on a comparatively quieter week was never going to happen. However, this now marks back-to-back weekly audience declines for CNN. Perhaps an impending Senate impeachment trial will lift the breaking news juggernaut back to No. 1 in total viewers.

Or maybe not.

Despite falling from No. 1 to No. 3 in total viewers this past week, CNN remains the most popular cable news network among adults 25-54, a title has held since the 2020 presidential election.

How did these networks perform relative to comparable weeks? CNN and MSNBC, as expected, saw losses from inauguration week. CNN was down -36% in total prime time viewers, -47% in the prime time demo, -39% in total day viewers, and -48% in the total day demo vs. the week of Jan. 18, 2021. However, on a year-over-year basis, CNN is still trending well. The network is up +67% in total prime time viewers, +68% in the prime time demo, +67% in total day viewers, and +74% in the total day demo.

After setting its own inauguration viewership record, MSNBC fell -17% in total prime time viewers, -37% in the prime time demo, -24% in total day viewers and -40% in the total day demo. Like CNN, however, MSNBC continues to trend well on an annual basis. The network grew +45% in total prime time viewers, +26% in the prime time demo, +28% in total day viewers, and +24% in the total day demo vs. the week of Jan. 27, 2020.

Fox News also shed viewers from inauguration week, but its decline was far less severe than that of CNN and MSNBC. The network shed just -1% of its average total prime time audience, and was -2% in the prime time demo, -6% in total day viewers, and -7% in the total day demo. However, the network was down double digits from the comparable week in 2020, -23% in total prime time viewers, -25% in the prime time demo, -36% in total day viewers and -37% in the total day demo.

The comparable week in 2020 featured the Trump senate impeachment trial, and was Fox News’ most-watched week since Jan. 2017.

HGTV and History were the 4th and 5th-most-watched cable networks for the week in prime time. HGTV and Hallmark captured the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in total day among total viewers..

Week of Jan. 25, 2021, Monday-Sunday:

PRIME TIME Fox News MSNBC CNN
• Total Viewers: 2,622,000 2,302,000 1,814,000
• A25-54: 422,000 339,000 468,000

 

 

 

TOTAL DAY MSNBC Fox News CNN
• Total Viewers: 1,381,000 1,323,000 1,287,000
• A25-54: 209,000 227,000 327,000

 

 

 

Basic cable ranker: Week of Jan. 25 (Total Viewers)

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