Cable News Ratings: CNN Surges, MSNBC Struggles in January

Charlie Hebdo terror attack coverage spikes CNN’s primetime viewership 48 percent; Fox News still No. 1 with growth in primetime demo


In a month where the terror attack at the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo dominated cable news for weeks, CNN saw the most gains.

The network went wall-to-wall with Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Jake Tapper, and others on-the-ground in Paris to cover the attack and its aftermath. Viewers responded:  compared to January, 2014, CNN was up 63 percent in total viewers during the day, attracting 516,000 viewers, and up 71 percent in the coveted 25-54 demo with an average of 168,000 viewers.

In primetime, the net grew 48 percent in viewers, averaging 602,000 viewers, and up 72 percent in demo viewers with an average of 225,000 viewers. Sister network HLN also had a strong start to the year, up double digits in all measurements. The network, which premiered social-media-laced shows “The Daily Share” and “Jack Vale: Offline” in January, was up 39 percent in total viewers and 32 person in the demo during the day. In primetime, HLN was up 19 percent in viewers and 12 percent in the demo.

CNN saw the most growth, but Fox News remained number one, marking 157 months atop the cable news ratings heap. Even with the milestone, FNC was down in every measurement except for primetime demo viewers compared to the same time a year ago. Fox was up three percent in the primetime demo, averaging  272,000 viewers.

But in total day, Fox lost 11 percent of its viewers, averaging 972,000 viewers, while also losing 13 percent of its demo viewers, attracting 191,000 viewers. And in primetime total viewers, FNC was down 13 percent with an average of 1,475,000 viewer. In early primetime (7pm-11pmET), Fox ranked third in all of basic cable in total viewers.

It’s important to note: part of Fox News’ decline can be attributed to the network being blacked out on Dish Network for three weeks as the two sparred over a new contract. Dish has over 14 million satellite subscribers, so the lack of Fox News availability for three quarters of the January was a definite factor in the network’s declines.

And for MSNBC, who’s in the midst of a noticeable on-air change geared toward more in-depth reporting and less punditry, it was not the strongest start to 2015.

The network—who sent daytime anchor Ronan Farrow to Paris in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack—was down double digits in all measurements: down 20 percent in total day viewers (323,000 viewers); down 37 percent in the 25-54 demo (93,000 viewers); down 23 percent in primetime viewers (518,000 viewers), and down 39 percent in the primetime demo (141,000 viewers).

Although the month wasn’t great for MSNBC TV, MSNBC’s “The Shift”—which debuted in December— helped see significant growth on the night of The State of the Union. From 9-11pmET, total unique visitors grew 130 percent and total video starts were up 267 percents vs. last year’s State of the Union.