2014 in Cable News: Fox News Stays on Top, CNN Climbs to No. 2 in Demo, MSNBC Falls Behind

Fox News caps its 13th year as the No. 1-rated cable news net; CNN moves ahead of MSNBC in all but primetime viewers

Last Updated: January 2, 2015 @ 11:17 AM

Thirteen was a lucky number for Fox News in 2014, with the network marking its 13th year as the top-rated news network, beating CNN and MSNBC in total day and primetime.

FNC was also the only network to make gains in the advertiser-coveted 25-54 demo in primetime, growing 2 percent over 2013 with 300,000 viewers. The network was flat in primetime total viewers year over year, averaging 1.74 million, and down 4 percent in total viewers and demo viewers during the day, drawing 1.5 million and 213,000, respectively.

Fox News kingpin Bill O’Reilly has now logged 15 years with the No. 1-rated cable news show, averaging 2,667,000 viewers and 426,000 demo viewers. In her first full year at 9 p.m. ET, Megyn Kelly averaged 2,204,000 and 374,000 demo viewers, placing second in all of cable news.

“The Kelly File” was also the only primetime program in cable news up in both total viewers and the demo, growing 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively, compared to 2013. It should be noted that Kelly took over at 9 p.m. ET in October, 2013; Sean Hannity hosted from January to October in that time slot.

During the day, the panel chatfest “Outnumbered” was a bright spot for Fox News. Since its premiere at noon ET in April, the program, which features four female co-hosts and a rotating roster of male co-hosts, was up 45 percent in viewers and 25 percent in the demo compared to its debut month.

FNC didn’t only beat its cable news competitors — it beat many non-news cable networks, placing second in all of primetime for the year behind only ESPN, ahead of USA Network, TNT and the History Channel.

CNN

Despite averaging its lowest-rated year in primetime total viewers since 1992 (the earliest year for which Nielsen ratings are available) CNN saw gains elsewhere.

The network passed MSNBC to take second place in primetime demo viewers, total day viewers and total day demo viewers. The second-place finish in total day was CNN’s best finish since 2011. Overall, the network attracted 399,000 total viewers and 126,000 demo viewers during the day; down 3 percent and 4 percent, respectively, compared to 2013. In primetime — which saw the network introduce original series like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” with Mike Rowe and “The Sixties,” at 9 p.m. ET — the net drew 515,000 viewers and 181,000 demo viewers. That’s down 9 percent in viewers and flat in the demo compared to 2013.

As TheWrap previously reported, CNN also lowered its average primetime age from 60 to 58 in 2014, thanks in large part to its original series. The average of 58 is three years younger than MSNBC (61) and a full decade younger than Fox News (68). Outside of the ratings, original series also helped bring in the bucks: CNN secured 60 new advertisers since 2013 in the hours it airs its original programing.

The morning also saw some movement for CNN — “New Day” edged MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in the 25-54 demo, the best numbers for CNN mornings since 2008. In fact, “Morning Joe” slipped to No. 4, behind “New Day” and HLN’s “Morning Express” with Robin Meade in the demo race (HLN is embarking on a complete social-media-powered rebrand early next year). HLN also had a strong fourth quarter, beating MSNBC in the total day demo for the third straight quarter, its longest streak in over 15 years.

MSNBC Anchors

MSNBC finished the year No. 2 in primetime total viewers, beating CNN for the fifth straight year, but slipped to third place — behind CNN — in total day viewers and demo viewers and in the primetime demo.

The”Lean Forward” network averaged 589,000 total viewers in primetime, down 8 percent from 2013. In the primetime demo, MSNBC averaged 169,000 viewers, down 17 percent year over year. In total day, the network averaged 347,000 total viewers and 108,000 demo viewers, down 12 percent and 18 percent, respectively, compared to 2013.

It was a mixed bag for some of MSNBC’s trademark programs; “Morning Joe” beat “New Day” in total viewers for the fifth straight year, but fell behind in the demo. “Hardball” with Chris Matthews, “All In” with Chris Hayes and “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell all defeated their respective CNN competition (Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, CNN Tonight) in total viewers, but lost to them in the 25-54 demo. It should be noted that O’Donnell was off air from mid-April to the end of June after a serious car accident.

Network star Rachel Maddow beat CNN in both total viewers and demo viewers, but marked all-time lows in both since its 2008 launch, drawing 843,000 total viewers and 196,000 demo viewers; demo viewership is down 18 percent year-over-year.

As TheWrap reported in our top 5 media losers list of 2014, Maddow’s struggles are due in part to her lead-in: As of October, Chris Hayes, who hosts “All In” at 8 p.m. ET was down 34 percent in total viewers and 30 percent in the 25-54 demo as compared to his predecessor, Ed Schultz. Those declines hurt Maddow, whose program has lost 23 percent in total viewers.

MSNBC did see gains in its minority viewership. In the same year that José Díaz-Balart debuted as a morning anchor, the network became the top-rated cable net for 25-54 Hispanic viewers during Monday through Friday primetime; MSNBC was also the only cable news network to increase its Hispanic audience in total viewers and the demo year over year.

And in a year during which race relations returned to cable news after the respective shooting and choking deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner sparked national outrage, MSNBC marked its fifth year in a row as the No. 1-rated cable news network among African Americans.