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It wasn’t hard to predict who would finish the year the winner of the cable news ratings race, but predicting just how hard CNN would faceplant is another matter.
The increasingly openly left-leaning network, which has suffered a loss in viewership in recent years, saw another 9% decline in total viewers, according to Live+7 Nielsen ratings for 2019. Its primary left-leaning competitor, MSNBC, also saw a decline in total viewers, but at a third of the rate of CNN. MSNBC’s total viewers nearly doubled that of CNN.
Meanwhile, Fox News notched a new record high in total viewers and average primetime viewers.
Nielsen’s full-year ratings for 2019 found Fox News, ESPN, and MSNBC atop the cable news networks, in that order, while CNN finished far below, at 22nd overall.
“Fox News averaged 2.5 million viewers per night in 2019, the most in its 23-year history, making the network the most-watched channel on basic cable,” The Hill reports. “According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News beat out ESPN, with its 1.78 million viewers, and third-place MSNBC, which drew an average of 1.75 million viewers in prime time.”
Fox’s dominant performance in 2019 makes four years in a row that the right-leaning network has beat out the cable competition.
Fox’s highest rated primetime show was “Hannity,” drawing 3.3 million viewers by average. “Hannity” has now been Fox’s highest performing show for three years running, Deadline notes.
“Hannity” also topped the list of the most-watched shows in cable, helping Fox secure four of the top five spots: 1) “Hannity” (3.3 million), 2) “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (3.1 million), 3) “The Rachel Maddow Show” (2.78 million), the lone non-Fox show, 4) “Ingraham Angle” (2.57 million), and 5) “The Five” (2.55 million).
As noted by The Hill, Carlson and Maddow “switched places” this year, as Maddow’s MSNBC show earned second place, edging out Carlson at third, in 2018.
None of CNN’s shows made the top five list. In fact, it’s top-rated show, “Cuomo Prime Time,” brought in about a third of the viewers Fox’s top show drew and less than half that of MSNBC’s most-watched show. “Cuomo” averaged just 1.13 million total viewers, and pulled in about 290,000 in the target news demo, adults 25-54.
In total viewers for 2019, CNN was down in 22nd place, averaging just 972,000 viewers per night — only a little better than half that of MSNBC and a third of Fox’s average viewership.
According to Nielsen’s data, CNN is down 9 percent over the previous year. MSNBC also lost viewers, but at a much lower percentage, its total viewership dropping 3 percent over 2018. Fox News, on the other hand, increased its total viewers by 3 percent.
Deadline tries to highlight some positives for both MSNBC and CNN amid the grim overall numbers, but ends up acknowledging that Trump’s preferred network still beats out both in head-to-head competition:
Even as they were far behind Fox News in total viewers, MSNBC and CNN talked up program highlights. MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with Nicole Wallace topped the 4 PM time slot in total viewers, while The 11th Hour with Brian Williams ranked first in that category for a third year in a row. Morning Joe, a frequent President Donald Trump target, averaged 1.1 million total viewers for what the network said was a record for the fourth year in a row, albeit it still trails Fox News’ Fox & Friends.