This week, it was announced that Tucker Carlson Tonight recorded the highest-rated quarter for a cable news show ever. That statistic was overlooked by Fox News detractors who claim the channel’s audience is old, dying off, and not built for the future. That has long been the narrative for the channel. No one is going to deny the channel has millions of viewers over 60. However, the data quickly debunks the notion that the channel and its hosts are not popular with the younger, key demographics. It states the opposite.
As was the case in total viewership, Fox News led by Carlson, dwarfed the competition in the 25-54 demo.
- Tucker Carlson Tonight (791,000), Fox News
- Hannity (
754,000), Fox News
- Special Report (668,00), Fox News
- The Five (655,000), Fox News
- The Ingraham Angle (655,000), Fox News
- The Story (603,000), Fox News
- Cuomo Prime Time (587,000), CNN
- Anderson Cooper 360 (568,000), CNN
- CNN Tonight (524,000), CNN
- Erin Burnett OutFront (502,00), CNN
For some context, Carlson’s average is more than what sports shows, which tend to have a younger audience, draw in total viewership.
The demographic of adults ages 25-54 is the primary focus for most advertisers. The age group is deemed impressionable to new products by cable news sponsors. If you think the viewership is backloaded, chop off the last five years and extend the criteria down to 18. Carlson won the valued 18-48 demographic by an equitable margin.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
Another loss for Twitter.
Executives are led to believe that the two demographics are highly influenced by Twitter and other social media platforms. Carlson, the media’s biggest star, provided a brutal counterpunch to that belief.
Carlson tweets once or twice a week. He sent just one tweet in the entire month of April, a month he dominated the competition in. He excels absent of the microphone his competition views as a necessity to capture the demographics he just won.
His head-to-head MSNBC competitor Chris Hayes’ timeline is updated by the minute. Hayes is beloved, retweeted, and praised. Young adults look for him to make sense of it all, the indication is. Yet, he ranks higher in total viewership, which includes all ages. He’s a lackluster 23rd overall in the younger 18-49 demo. Rachel Maddow, with her 10 million Twitter followers, is an even more influential voice online. You’d think she is the one who resonates with the younger audience. Not really. Maddow, too, ranks lower with the younger audience (12) than she does in total (6th).
Twitter is good for pushing content for bloggers and podcast hosts. It’s not time well spent for TV and radio hosts.
MSNBC has an age problem.
All of cable news dips once you take away the viewers over 60. But the concern is not with Fox News, it’s with MSNBC. In the two key demographics, MSNBC didn’t have a single show in the top 10. It had two in the top 10 among total viewership. The Carlson-led Fox News owned the first six and five spots in the 25-54 and 18-49 demographics, respectively.
MSNBC is falling far behind CNN with the younger population, as well. Seven CNN shows made the top 20 with adults 25-54; only one MSNBC show, Maddow at 11, made it. The results are similar among adults 18-49. In the top 20, CNN held a seven-to-two advantage over MSNBC.
This says the younger generation is seeking the opposite of what they are fed online. They are going to Fox News for that, and CNN for news. MSNBC is what you find on Twitter, it’s what is mistakenly provided on sports TV, and what you must say to fit in with the elites. All that sounds cushy, and it is initially. Then, the numbers come in and you find out it doesn’t work among the viewers the networks are determined to attract.
There’s a market for alternative views.
Above all else, Carlson’s success among the different demographics is a direct response to extreme thinking. High-ranking media executives have rewarded reporters, hosts, and opinionists for far-left leaning views that demand change and spark outrage. That’s what gets retweets, likes, and promotions. Far-right viewers have their places in niches that mostly exist independently. Then there’s the rest of the country who isn’t searching for partisan hacks. Carlson, over the past quarter, has been the most moderate opinionist on TV.
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.
Carlson’s most controversial monologues over the past quarter 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 has even made news providing an opposing side on sports topics. That industry operates out of even more fear than the news media. 95% of the sports media made bogus excuses for their handling of the Bubba Wallace situation. Per usual, Carlson offered something different.
“The noose you heard so much about hanging in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage turned out to be what almost every other recent noose turned out to be: Not a noose at all. In fact it was a rope used to pull down a garage door,” Carlson said. “Yet even after we discovered this, last night on CNN, Bubba Wallace tried to keep the outrage going.”
Alternative views are particularly a refreshment to the younger demographics, who are showered in extreme thinking online. They are just trying to get through their days without getting fired or shamed. Carlson is that opposing perspective for them in the evening.
Carlson is the antithesis of what the vast majority of media is today. He’s the threat they warn you about. He’s recently been under more fire for his stance on Black Lives Matter and the nationwide riots. Hopefully, by this point in the column, you’ll know you can guess the results.
You guessed it, decision-makers, again, listened like cowards. Executives at Disney, T-Mobile, Papa Johns, and SmileDirectClub took the demands and pulled their advertisements from his show. The viewers, who the companies advertise for, did the opposite. Viewers of all ages flocked to him in record-setting numbers.
Cancel culture has many significant victories on its resume. Tucker Carlson isn’t one of them. He’s handing it a glaring defeat any way you want to measure it.