This past month, Fox News recorded its highest-rated July on record. In addition, its competitors, MSNBC and CNN, saw significant year-over-year gains.
Here are the 10 most viewed cable news show in July, via Nielsen Media Research:
- Hannity, Fox News – 4.1M
- Tucker Carlson, Fox News – 4M
- Ingraham Angle, Fox News – 3.4M
- Rachel Maddow, MSNBC – 3.3M
- The Five, Fox News – 3.3M
- Special Report, Fox News – 2.6M
- The Last Word, MSNBC – 2.6M
- The Story, Fox News – 2.2M
- Deadline: White House, MSNBC – 2M
- 11th Hour, MSNBC – 2M
CNN, again, missed the top 10. Its highest-rated show, Cuomo Prime Time, ranked 13th with a 1.9 million average. This isn’t as alarming as it seems. As was the case in the quarterly ratings, CNN performed well in the 25-54 demographic, which is what advertisers prioritize.
In the demo, three CNN programs reached the top 10: Cuomo Prime Time, 480,000; Cooper 360, 418,000; CNN Tonight, 380,000. That compares to just one for MSNBC and six for Fox News. By the demo measure, CNN is the second most significant cable news channel, behind Fox News, ahead of MSNBC.
Staying in the 25-54 demo, Tucker Carlson Tonight, again, finished No. 1 at 700,000. Last month, I explored the reasons for Carlson’s success among all ages. I concluded:
“He is a conservative, yes. But he, unlike most in his position, didn’t do PR for the party he supports. It was he who warned Trump to take the coronavirus seriously when most conservatives were yet to fully acknowledge it. He quickly pointed out Trump’s alarming poll numbers and publicized the possibility he could lose to Joe Biden. Carlson has also been critical of the Republican party. Just this week, he said it has failed Americans who support it.
[Over the past quarter], Carlson’s most controversial monologues likely represent what at least half of Americans, young and old, think. He’s made no excuse for pathetic rioters, he’s raised concerns about the dangers of Black Lives Matter being immune from judgment, and has questioned if defunding the police force would truly make us safer. Publicly, online and on opposing channels, these comments are offensive, racist, and despicable. Privately, they are interesting, subjective stances worth considering. It doesn’t mean they are right or wrong — that’s for you to decide.”
Carlson’s neck-and-neck battle with Sean Hannity continued in July. Hannity just barely topped Carlson in total viewership, 4.1 million to 4 million. In Q2 for 2020, Carlson (4,331,000) edged Hannity (4,311,000) by just 20,000. Carlson’s average was the highest-rated for a cable news show on record.
The race shifts based on daily stories.
Hannity often tops cable when President Donald Trump leads the news cycle; Carlson’s ratings are amplified with current events and social topics. In July, exclusive, news-making interviews with President Trump and Roger Stone bolstered Hannity’s viewership.
Fox News’ The Five is the most under-discussed success story. The 5 p.m. panel show is drawing primetime numbers. At 3.3 million, it tied the Rachel Maddow Show and just fell short of the Ingraham Angle’s 3.4 million.
The Five airs in a trying time slot. In the Eastern time zone, it faces popular local news shows head-to-head on the broadcast television affiliates. Out West, fewer viewers are home at 2 p.m. to consume a TV show.
The Five is one of cable news’ best daily programs. It features a distinctive, unique format with Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Jesse Watters, and Juan Williams. Williams provides a differing, more liberal perspective. Watter, Gutfeld, and Perino are engaging, intriguing personalities.
Historically, data says there’s an overlap with viewers who watch primetime cable news and live sports. Since March, due to the pandemic, cable news has gone without competition. So far, though, live sports haven’t shifted the numbers.
July 24, MLB returned to large ratings. But its 3.4 million average fell short of Hannity (4.3M), Carlson (4M), and Maddow (3.6); all three drew close to normal viewership. (The Five, as non-head-to-head airing, too topped MLB with 3.6M viewers.)
Last Thursday, the NBA’s highly-discussed return also didn’t bother primetime news. The NBA’s restart — two games — opened to 2.75 million viewers. It lost to several cable news shows that aired directly against it: Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4 million; Hannity, 3.8 million; the Ingraham Angle; 3 million, Rachel Maddow Show, 3 million. (Earlier in the day, The Five, at 3.2 million, outperformed the NBA.)
During the football season, Mondays and Thursdays will offer stauncher competition. Though, with the politicization of the NFL, the threat could be diminished.
In the cord-cutting era, with digital media on fire, the criticized cable news industry is thriving.
On to August, as election season approaches.