Breaking Down How Cable Dominated 2016 News Consumption

Nielsen points out that an average 27.1 billion minutes of cable news coverage was consumed weekly in 2016.
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Nielsen Media offered up something of a postmortem on election coverage consumption late Saturday night. Its quarterly Total Audience Report illustrates that in addition to having the biggest share of viewers throughout the presidential campaign, cable news networks indeed reaped the most substantial year-to-year growth.

Looking at adults over the age of 18, Nielsen estimates that 73.5 billion minutes of news coverage were consumed each week of 2016 — that's across national news, local news, cable news, PC, smartphone and radio. All vehicles for news were up from 2015, with the exception of local news, for a total lift of 18 percent from 2015.

Most of the consumption modes were only up modestly from the also-robust 2015, but not cable news. Consumption there, largely that on Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC, was up a strong 44 percent to account for 37 percent of all viewing.

The end of 2016 brought a pretty optimistic postmortem for the cable news networks, which touted collective primetime viewership surging 57 percent and best-ever years for both Fox News and CNN.

But 2016 is over. What seems most promising now is the January findings from Nielsen's study. Early data echoes the quarterly ratings released earlier in the week, which have total day viewership still surging across cable news networks. For the month of January, for instance, the average U.S. viewers spent two hours and 11 minutes of their week watching cable news on linear television. That's a 20-minute increase from the 2017 average, and equal to that of the fourth quarter.

See the rough breakdown from Nielsen: