Here are the top 20 rated shows in cable news for the first quarter of 2022 (12/27//21-03/25/22):
- The Five, Fox News: 3.67 million
- Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News: 3.61 million
- Jesse Watters Primetime, Fox News: 3.12 million
- Hannity, Fox News: 3.05 million
- Special Report, Fox News: 2.72 million
- The Ingraham Angle, Fox News: 2.41 million
- Outnumbered, Fox News: 1.99 million
- Gutfeld, Fox News: 1.95 million
- America’s Newsroom, Fox News: 1.92 million
- The Faulkner Focus, Fox News: 1.90 million
- Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC: 1.83 million
- Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News: 1.79 million
- The Story, Fox News: 1.77 million
- America Reports, Fox News: 1.76 million
- Fox & Friends, Fox News: 1.44 million
- Last Word, MSNBC: 1.36 million
- All in with Chris Hayes, MSNBC: 1.32 million
- Deadline: White House, MSNBC: 1.26 million
- The Beat With Ari Melber, MSNBC: 1.23 million
- Fox News @ Night, Fox News: 1.19
CNN first enters the list at 22 overall, with Anderson Cooper 360 averaging just over 1 million viewers.
Overall, CNN’s primetime lineup is down 56% from a year ago. MSNBC is down 46%, while Fox News is up 3%.
The story for CNN and MSNBC is much the same: both networks miss their top star. CNN fired Chris Cuomo in December and is waiting for new management under Chris Licht, former producer of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, to name a replacement for the 9 pm hour.
Cuomo was never Bill O’Reilly — no one is — but he moved the needle. He was more entertaining than Cooper and more talented than Don Lemon, for what that’s worth. Cuomo always led CNN in viewership, averaging 1.3 million in 2021.
CNN should be doing better. It employs strong journalists like Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and Clarissa Ward — who is the best on-scene reporter in the business. Its problem is that hacks like Lemon, Oliver Darcy and that unpleasant lady on the morning show undermine all of it.
Meanwhile, MSNBC needs Rachel Maddow, who has been on hiatus for most of 2022. Had Maddow remained on air, she would have ranked no lower than 4th overall, as she did in 2021.
Maddow may have lied about Trump and Russia for years, but she’s still a superstar. Maddow is the single, most valuable talent in cable news.
How is that possible? Well, a network isn’t interested in honest reporting, strictly speaking. Networks are interested in viewership numbers. In order to determine a host’s worth, network managers follow a simple formula: take the base average — the number of viewers who tune in at a specific time slot, no matter the host — then measure whether he or she raises, drops or maintains that average.
In 2021, Maddow averaged a million more viewers than the rest of the MSNBC primetime lineup. That’s leverage, thus her $30 million a year contract.
In fact, Maddow has so much leverage at MSNBC that she personally vetoed Keith Olbermann’s return to the network. Good for her. No one likes Olbermann.
Finally, Jesse Watters was the biggest winner of the quarter. FNC named Watters the permanent host of the 7 pm hour in January, after trying out a bevy of opinion hosts for over a year.
In his first quarter, Watters led the 7 pm hour to third overall, even though 7 pm is not traditionally a hot spot for cable news. The hour conflicts with local news in the Central time zone and airs at 4 pm on the West Coast where people are still at work.
So Watters has clearly exceeded expectations thus far. He also co-hosts The Five, the top-rated show on cable news.
Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are FNC’s biggest stars. Bret Baier is next because of his importance to the FNC news division. After that, no one else is above Watters. Not bad for a former producer.
Here’s a full list of winners and losers from the first quarter of 2022 in cable news:
- Jesse Watters — hosts two of the top three shows in cable news
- Clarissa Ward — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox should line up at her door
- Rachel Maddow — shows her value even when she’s not working
- Don Lemon — no talent to speak of
- Joy Reid — too much racism and an abysmal showing at No. 21
- Keith Olbermann — begging for a job and not getting one