Fox News Channel finished up the third quarter of 2014 with a milestone, topping all of basic cable — including USA, ESPN and TNT — in total viewers for weekday primetime since Fox News launched in 1996.
For the quarter, Fox News averaged 1.705 million total viewers Monday-Sunday from 7 to 11 p.m. — the hours that the news channel switched its primetime to nearly a year ago. That marks an 11 percent increase over Q3 of 2014.
Compare that to second-place USA Network, which averaged 1.801 million total primetime viewers Monday-Sunday from 7 to 11 p.m. — a 22 precent drop from the same quarter last year. TNT, meanwhile, averaged 1.636 million, an 11 percent drop.
ESPN’s average was 1.664 million, a 7 percent decline over the same period last year.
It’s likely, of course, that USA Network and TNT’s numbers will rise with delayed viewing factored in, while Fox News is unlikely to receive a similar boost.
In the traditional 8 to 11 p.m. primetime that Fox News abandoned nearly a year ago, this marks the first time that the network has topped basic cable in more than 10 years, since the Iraq war in 2003.
In terms of cable-news competition, Fox News handily — and predictably — won the quarter, beating out its top two competitors CNN and MSNBC combined. Compared to the 1.705 million total viewers that Fox News averaged, CNN averaged 548,000 a six percent improvement over the same period next year. MSNBC, meanwhile, averaged 552,000 total viewers over the quarter.
In the key 25-54 news demo, Fox News Channel averaged 292,000 viewers, a 10 percent improvement, compared to 179,000 demo viewers for CNN (up 5 percent) and 143,000 for MSNBC, which represents a 21 percent drop.
HLN, meanwhile, averaged 330,000 total viewers and 114,000 in the demo — declines of 8 percent and 14 percent, respectively.