On Monday night, when the United States launched airstrikes against ISIS forces in Syria, cable news networks snapped into action. The result was a decisive victory for Fox News Channel, though CNN still had a breaking boost to hang its hat on.
In primetime, which runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., Fox News led the way with 2.041 million total viewers, 452,000 of those coming from the key cable news demo — which includes viewers 25-54.
MSNBC was a distant second with 646,000 total viewers, though third in the demo with 174,000.
CNN was third overall with 587,000 total viewers, but second in the demo with 206,000.
Each of the cable news channels entered breaking news mode during the 9 o’clock hour, when CNN finished third in both metrics.
The lineups pitted Fox’s Shepard Smith and Megyn Kelly (with contributions from Bret Baier in Washington, D.C. and Jennifer Griffin from the Pentagon) against CNN’s Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota, versus MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow.
At 10, the first hour following the initial air strikes, Fox News jumped 58 percent in total viewers and 126 percent in the demo. CNN’s increases were even more dramatic, soaring 246 percent and 294 percent respectively. That said, the Turner network started with a much smaller base, leading to somewhat skewed — though still impressive — triple-digit gains.
Also worth noting, FNC’s 1.924 million total viewers was more than double CNN’s 882,000 total viewers. The former had 534,000 demo viewers, the latter had 339,000.
For MSNBC, total viewers that hour were nearly flat, but their demo got a slight bump.