Cable News Ratings: CNN, MSNBC Battle for Second in August as Fox News Dominates Again

Fox News has now been No. 1 overall for 176 straight months


While Fox News finished No. 1 among all of cable news networks for August, MSNBC gained significantly on CNN to claim second place in major audience categories.

CNN points to victories over MSNBC in the key demo of adults age 25-54 during primetime and total day viewers. But MSNBC claims it “trounced CNN in mornings and primetime while also delivering massive growth and notable victories throughout key dayparts.”

Overall, Fox News averaged 2 million total viewers and 347,000 in the demo during primetime, winning both categories. MSNBC averaged 1.13 million total viewers, while CNN trailed with 844,000 total viewers.

In the primetime demo, CNN sneaked past MSNBC with 272,000 viewers to MSNBC’s 264,000. When MSNBC claims a primetime demo victory, it uses data for only Monday through Friday. But when all seven days are included, CNN prevails.

Among total day, Fox News won both categories easily, but showed the least growth. MSNBC finished behind CNN and Fox News in both the demo and total viewers, but grew 73 percent compared to last year. CNN also showed significant growth from last year, but an equally significant drop from last month when it won the primetime demo. That month featured two presidential conventions, a handful of police-related tragedies and terror attacks in Nice, France.

August viewership had less breaking news and event coverage and focused more on day-to-day coverage of the presidential campaign. CNN averaged 568,000 viewers in the primetime demo during its huge month in July, compared to 272,000 in August, but all three networks dropped significantly versus the jam-packed month.

CNN nearly had its lowest-rated month of 2016, but edged January by 2,000 total viewers and 1,000 in the demo during primetime. CNN was the No. 1 cable channel in Monday-Sunday primetime and Monday-Friday prime, in terms of both total viewers and the key demo, as recently as the week of July 25 during the presidential conventions.

Essentially, all of this proves that viewers turn to CNN for coverage of events and breaking news but many of those viewers prefer Fox or MSNBC for opinion programming.

Meanwhile, Fox News has now been No. 1 overall for 176 straight months. The network topped basic cable in both primetime and total day for a second consecutive month and for a fourth month this calendar year. FNC claimed the eight out of the top 10 programs in total viewers and seven out of the top 10 in the demo.

MSNBC primetime grew 76 percent in total viewers and 86 percent in the demo compared August 2015.

By comparison, CNN was up 47 percent in total viewers and 53 percent in the demo.

Fox News was down 13 percent in total viewers and down 29 percent in the demo, but still is the most-watched primetime network and, clearly, was absolutely crushing the competition this time last year.