Cable News Ratings 2013: Fox Tops While CNN Slides Into Second

Cable News Ratings 2013: Fox Tops While CNN Slides Into Second

Cable news takes hits across the board in primetime due to 2012 election coverage

Fox News Channel scored a predictable ratings win among its news-cable peers in 2013, topping both the key 25-54 news demo and total viewership for the 12th straight year. Meanwhile, CNN edged into second place and managed to remain steady overall compared to declines among competitors Fox and MSNBC, according to Nielsen data for the year.

For the first time in two years, CNN — which was taken over this by former NBC Universal honcho Jeff Zucker — took second place in cable news. In total day numbers, CNN averaged 413,000 total viewers, compared to 394,000 for MSNBC.

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In the demo, CNN tied with MSNBC for second in total day, with both networks averaging 131,000 viewers in the demo.

The big-picture good news for the network in total day numbers? While Fox and MSNBC experienced declines compared to the previous year — MSNBC, in particular, slid 21 percent in total viewers and the demo — CNN held mostly even compared to the previous year, performing flat in total viewers and dipping just two percent in the demo.

Also read: The Year in Cable News: CNN Weathers Turbulent 2013 With New Leadership and Stable Ratings

Among primetime, CNN still placed third, averaging 568,000 total viewers compared to MSNBC's 640,000 and 183,000 in the demo, versus MSNBC's 203,000.

The Ted Turner-founded cable network experienced ratings growth for all of its individual primetime programs, with Anderson Cooper's “AC 360” in particular enjoying an 18 percent growth in total viewers (for an average 648,000) and 19 percent in the demo (with an average 201,000). The network also found success this year with the Sundays at 9 p.m. offering “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” which, throughout its two seasons, was the top-rated regularly scheduled weekend program across cable news. Its new CNN Films series also proved beneficial — the documentary “CNN Films: Blackfish,” aside from sparking protests against SeaWorld, was the top-rated cable news offering on the day of its Oct. 24 premiere.

Also read: The Year in Cable News: Bashir, Baldwin Exits Cap Year of Turmoil for MSNBC

That said, neither CNN nor MSNBC could touch Fox News, which beat out its two competitors combined in total viewers, both in total day numbers (with an average 1.097 million) and primetime. (In the traditional 8 to 11 p.m. primetime measurement, the network averaged 1.761 million total viewers, while Fox's expanded 7 to 11 p.m. primetime, which it rolled out in the fall, averaged 1.973 million total viewers.)

All of the network's programs in its rejiggered primetime lineup enjoyed growth following the Oct. 7 launch compared to the year to date before the launch, with the new offering “The Kelly File” climbing the most in total viewership for a 20 percent gain. (The timeslot also grew 10 percent in the demo over year-to-date.)

Also read: The Year in Cable News: Fox News Ends Another Contentious Year at the Top

The bad news for cable news in primetime? All of the Big 3 cable news networks took hits in the 8 to 11p.m. hours in 2013, due to the election coverage that boosted the networks the previous year. Fox was off 14 percent in total viewers and 30 percent in the demo compared to 2012, while MSNBC dropped 29 percent in both total viewers and the demo, and CNN fell 16 and 18 percent in total viewers in the demo, respectively.

Here's how the numbers shook out, per Nielsen.

2013 vs. 2012


FNC: 1,097,000 total viewers – down -5%; (222,000 in 25-54 – down -19%)

CNN: 413,000 total viewers – flat 0%; (131,000 in 25-54 – down -2%)

MSNBC: 394,000 total viewers – down -21%; (131,000 in 25-54 – down -21%)

HLN: 296,000 total viewers – up 22%; (112,000 in 25-54 – up 18%)


FNC: 1,761,000 total viewers – down -14% (294,000 in 25-54 – down -30%)

CNN: 568,000 total viewers – down -16%; (183,000 in 25-54 – down -18%)

MSNBC: 640,000 total viewers – down -29%; (203,000 in 25-54 – down -29%)

HLN: 395,000 total viewers – up 18%; (139,000 in 25-54 – up 24%)


FNC: 1,973,000 total viewers – down -13% (339,000 in 25-54 – down -31%)

CNN: 586,000 total viewers – down -14%; (187,000 in 25-54 – down -17%)

MSNBC: 728,000 total viewers – down -30%; (197,000 in 25-54 – down -34%)

HLN: 408,000 total viewers – up 32%; (143,000 in 25-54 – up 39%)

  • saintgauden

    I try to avoid US news channels as much as I can. MSNBC is an annoying joke. Basically, all that channel does is promote gay and feminist issues. How long can you stand listening to these groups whine about issues they offer no real potential solutions for? Fox News is number one because it caters to the majority: smug white folks who are obsessed with blondes, coke, free-market rhetoric, protestantism, and the Cold War. All the channels are now obsessed with broadcasting everything about gays, supposedly abused women, and every outcast that shoots up a public place. US news is amazingly boring…the same type of stories every day. No reason to watch it…because I already know what it will be about: Gays; a shooting; Obamacare; the British Royals; something about the Kennedys; and either love for or animosity toward rich folks. I already know the topics that will be covered, so why watch?

  • crashrandy .

    Who the hell watches MSNBC?
    The most racist channel in the world!

    • Edston

      The only reason MSNBC numbers remain decent is because of the vile disgusting comments from their reporters that attracts people who can't believe what they said. In any cases, MSNBC is no longer a news network; it is a liberal propaganda machine.