- Fox News averaged 1.3 million viewers from the start of 2021 through December 13th. MSNBC finished in second place — averaging 915,000 viewers. CNN averaged only 783,000 viewers.
Fox News Channel finished off its 25th anniversary year as the most-watched network across all of basic cable for the sixth straight year.
Fox News, which launched on Oct. 7, 1996, dominated all of basic cable in total day and primetime viewership to close the anniversary year with plenty to celebrate a quarter-century after Rupert Murdoch launched the network.
“As we embark on our 20th year as the leader in cable news, the last six of which as number one in all of cable, I am incredibly proud of the unrivaled success we’ve had at Fox News Channel,” FOX News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said.
Fox News averaged 1.3 million viewers from the start of 2021 through Dec. 13, while no other basic cable offering cracked the one-million viewer barrier.
Overall, the cable news networks saw ratings drop significantly from the same month one year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic coincided with the presidential election, driving heavy viewership. CNN experienced the most dramatic decline, dropping 77 percent from one year ago in prime, followed by MSNBC (down 59 percent) and Fox News (down 35 percent).
Tucker Carlson Tonight was the most-watched show in cable news for the month, winning among total viewers (3.667 million viewers) and in the key demo (651,000 viewers). Overall, Fox News swept the top five programs in cable news in both metrics. Following Tucker Carlson Tonight, FNC’s The Five took second place (3.512 million total viewers and 557,000 viewers in the key demo), followed by Hannity (3.234 million total viewers and 541,000 viewers in the key demo), Special Report with Bret Baier (2.768 million viewers and 475,000 viewers in the key demo) and The Ingraham Angle (2.675 million total viewers and 469,000 viewers 25-54).
In the key demo of adults 25-54—the demographic most valued by advertisers—Fox finished first with an average audience of 420,000 viewers. CNN was second (148,000 viewers) and MSNBC (140,000 viewers).
"Hannity" averaged 2.8 million viewers to finish third while MSNBC’s most-watched program was "The Rachel Maddow Show," which averaged 2.6 million viewers to finish fourth.
Gutfeld, also a co-host on "The Five," was the first late night television host to outdraw CBS’ Stephen Colbert as the most-watched late night television host for an entire week since 2018. "Gutfeld!" ended up topping Colbert during several weeks of 2021.
CNN’s most-popular program was troublesome for multiple reasons. "Cuomo Prime Time," combined with its timeslot replacement, "CNN Tonight," averaged 1.3 million viewers to finish No. 25 among all cable news options. The liberal network’s 9 p.m. ET hour finished behind 13 Fox News shows and 11 MSNBC programs.
While the lack of viewership for CNN’s most popular show would raise eyebrows alone, its namesake host was fired in December after months of embarrassing the network.
CNN was forced to fire Chris Cuomo after the New York Attorney General's office released documents from its sexual harassment investigation into ousted Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revealing the anchor was far more involved in helping his disgraced brother than he publicly acknowledged.
Transcripts from his interview with investigators show the now-former CNN star admitting he would reach out to media sources to find out about new accusers who have yet to come forward publicly. The "Cuomo Prime Time" namesake was also caught up in a variety of other scandals and has been temporarily replaced by Michael Smerconish, but the show still managed to finish as the most popular program CNN had to offer in 2021.
As 2022 approaches, MSNBC’s most-watched host, Rachel Maddow, is expected to take a step back from her nightly duties in the coming months and CNN’s most-watched host is currently unemployed.
Fox News also topped cable news options among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54, averaging 222,000 total viewers from the key category. The only basic cable offering to finish ahead of Fox News in the demo was NFL-heavy ESPN, while CNN averaged 189,000 demo viewers to finish fifth. MSNBC, which has struggled to attract young viewers in recent months, barely cracked the top ten with 127,000 average viewers.
During primetime, Fox News averaged 373,000 nightly viewers from the critical category compared to 274,000 for CNN and only 219,000 for MSNBC.
"Tucker" was the most-watched show among the demo with an average audience 536,000 viewers among the category most coveted by advertisers. "Hannity" averaged 462,000 to finish second, followed by "The Five," "The Ingraham Angle" and MSNBC’s "Maddow."
By topping Maddow, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham has now finished as the most-watched female cable news host among the demo in back-to-back years.
Fox News held a 44% share of the cable news audience in total day viewership and 41% of the demo audience. During primetime, Fox News held a 47% audience share in total viewers and 43% among the key demo, increasing its percentage of the demo audience since 2020 in the process.
"FOX News @ Night with Shannon Bream," which moved to a new timeslot in 2021, improved the network’s timeslot’s ratings across the board. Fox News also unveiled a new daytime lineup on January 18, which increased the network’s daytime viewership by 12% among total viewers and 27% among the key demo.
"America’s Newsroom" with Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino averaged 1.5 million viewers, Harris Faulkner’s "The Faulkner Focus" averaged 1.5 million and Faulkner, Emily Compagno and Kayleigh McEnany’s "Outnumbered" averaged 1.6 million viewers, while "America Reports" with John Roberts and Sandra Smith, "The Story with Martha MacCallum" and "Your World with Neil Cavuto" all averaged 1.4 million to help Fox News crush cable news competition.
"FOX & Friends" was highest-rated morning program on cable, averaging 1.2 million total viewers and 211,000 in the demo. Meanwhile, CNN’s morning show option, "New Day," averaged only 529,000 viewers to finish as the No. 46 program on cable news.
The thumping continued on weekends, when "Watters’ World" with namesake host Jesse Watters averaged 1.9 million viewers to finish as the most-watched program among total viewers.
"Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo" finished as the most-popular weekend program among the demo, averaging 249,000 from the group coveted by advertisers.
"FOX & Friends Weekend," "FOX Report with Jon Scott," "Justice with Judge Jeanine," newly launched "Unfiltered with Dan Bongino," "MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz," "FNC’s The Big Sunday Show," "Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy," "Life, Liberty & Levin" and "The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton" all had strong performances during the network’s 25th anniversary year, too.
All data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research using ratings through Dec. 13, 2021.