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Cable News Ratings: MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Post Double-Digit Growth in Q2

Variety logo Variety 6/27/2017 Joe Otterson
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The viewership spike for cable news shows no signs of slowing down. Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all saw double-digit ratings growth across the board for the second quarter of 2017, according to Nielsen data.

Driven by surges for “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell,” MSNBC is up a whopping 86% in total viewers in primetime compared to second-quarter 2016. CNN saw a 39% leap in adults 25-54 in total day. Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow” split the crown for most-watched cable news program in primetime, with Carlson winning in total viewers and Maddow taking the demo.

In total day, Fox News led with 1.47 million total viewers, up 27% from the same period last year. Of those, 314,000 fell in the adults 25-54 demographic, up 46% from last year. MSNBC was second in total viewers with 886,000, up 73%. MSNBC was third in total day in the demo, however, with 206,000 for an increase of 57%. CNN was third in total viewers with 788,000 for an increase of 25%, but second in the demo with 262,000 (up 39%).

In Monday-Sunday primetime (8 p.m.-11 p.m. ET), Fox News maintained its comfortable lead over the competition with 2.35 million total viewers for an increase of 19% compared to the same period last year. Fox News was also first in the demo in primetime with an average of 472,000, up 34% from last year.

The resilience was notable given that Fox News lost its longtime 8 p.m. anchor “The O’Reilly Factor” in mid-April following the sexual harassment scandal that forced host Bill O’Reilly off the air. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has not matched “O’Reilly Factor’s” year-ago levels in total viewers but it has brought in a younger audience, with a 16% gain in adults 25-54. At 10 p.m., “Hannity” saw a 30% surge in total viewers and adults 25-54.

MSNBC, meanwhile, is riding the wave of outrage at the Trump administration’s agenda with liberal commentators Maddow and O’Donnell. The NBCUniversal cabler was second in primetime in both measures with 1.64 million total viewers (up 86%) and 389,000 (up 78%). CNN was third with 1.06 million viewers for a 10% increase over last year, with 370,000 in the demo for a 19% increase over last year.

For the quarter, the top five programs in total viewers are: Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (2.71 million); MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” (2.52 million); Fox News’ “Hannity” (2.51 million); Fox News’ “The Five” (2.47 million); and Fox News’ “Special Report With Bret Baier” (2.34 million).

MSNBC and Fox News also split the top five programs in the key demo: “The Rachel Maddow Show” (604,000); “Hannity” (550,000); “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (541,000); “The Five (508,000); and MSNBC’s “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” (476,000).

This is the latest in a long string of ratings wins for the Big Three cable news networks in the early days of the Trump administration. Combined viewing of the three networks is up 33% through the first week of June compared with the same period last year.

The second quarter trends continue the momentum the news cablers enjoyed in the first quarter — surprising observers given the expectation of a post-presidential election decline in viewership. Instead, the three networks saw massive gains. CNN had its most-watched first quarter in 14 years, both in the key demo and in total viewers, while Fox News put up the highest-rated quarter ever in cable news history in the total day viewership.

(Pictured: CNN’s Jake Tapper, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow)

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