Fox News Dominates, But Only MSNBC Grows

Fox News dominated the ratings for 2023, but only MSNBC showed slight growth in audience compared to a year earlier.

Fox News, for an eighth year in a row, was also the top-rated cable network overall.

In seven-day primetime, Fox News averaged 1.85 million viewers, down 20% from a year earlier. MSNBC averaged 1.22 million, up 2%, and CNN posted 582,000, down 19%. In the adults 25-54 demo, Fox News averaged 212,000, down 38%, while CNN posted 125,000, down 27% and MSNBC had 124,000, down 6%.

In total day, Fox News averaged 1.22 million, down 18%, compared to MSNBC with 780,000, up 6%, and CNN with 479,000, down 15%. In the 25-54 demo, Fox News averaged 149,000, down 35%, compared to CNN with 94,000, down 23% and MSNBC with 87,000, up 5%.

The past year lacked a major election, a la the midterms in 2022 and the presidential election in 2020, which have proven to be audience boosts. Fox News’ figures also reflected its decision to drop its most watched personality, Tucker Carlson. Although his successor, Jesse Watters, has won the 8 pm ET slot, he has not yet matched the Carlson figure. That said, the bigger picture across the cable landscape has been one of viewer erosion, as consumer habits switch to streaming.

Fox News swept the top five daily show rankings this year. The Five was the most watched show, averaging 2.89 million viewers, followed by Jesse Watters Primetime with 2.49 million, Hannity with 2.36 million, Special Report with Bret Baier at 2.07 million and The Ingraham Angle with 1.96 million.

In the 25-54 demo, The Five topped with an average of 301,000, followed by Hannity with 271,000, Gutfeld! with 267,000, Jesse Watters Primetime with 253,000 and The Ingraham Angle with 218,000. The network also points out that it has shown significant viewership gains in major cities like New York and Los Angeles since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

MSNBC’s most watched show, ranked seventh overall, was Alex Wagner Tonight/The Rachel Maddow Show, which averaged 1.61 million. Maddow’s show, which airs only on Mondays, averaged 2.4 million viewers, beating rivals. The network also pointed to viewership growth on weekends, while rivals declined. The longtime franchise Morning Joe also topped its time period in New York and Washington, DC

CNN’s top show was Anderson Cooper 360, averaging 743,000 viewers (through December 12). It ranked 29th among all cable news shows.

Meanwhile, smaller networks are touting ratings gains during the year, including Newsmax, the conservative channel, and NewsNation, the Nexstar upstart that expanded to 24 hours in April.

The ratings figures are from Nielsen via Fox News and MSNBC.