TV Ratings: Cable News Has Record-Setting Second Quarter

Tucker Carlson Serious - Getty - H 2019
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All three major cable news networks set ratings records in the second quarter of 2020, as ongoing stories including the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests drove viewers to Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

The three channels recorded double-digit gains over the same period in 2019 in total viewers and adults 25-54. All three also delivered their biggest viewer tallies ever in both total-day averages and in primetime.

Per usual, Fox News landed on top of the rankings, averaging 1.96 million viewers in total day ratings (up 48 percent year to year) and 3.57 million in primetime, up 50 percent from 2019. MSNBC's 1.21 million total-day average and 2 million primetime viewers finished second, a little ahead of CNN (1.19 million total day, 1.81 million primetime).

Fox News' lead among the key news demographic of adults 25-54 was narrower: It averaged 366,000 such viewers over the full day for the quarter, about 9 percent more than CNN's 335,000. In primetime, Fox News had an 18 percent advantage over CNN with 624,000 in the 25-54 demo vs. 528,000 for CNN. MSNBC trailed in both dayparts, averaging 193,000 for the total day and 315,000 in prime.

Fox News also led all of cable for the quarter in total viewers, adults 25-54 and adults 18-49 in primetime, the first time it's pulled off that trifecta.

CNN had the largest percentage gains in the second quarter, more than doubling its total audience and 25-54 viewership in primetime and over the full day compared to the same time in 2019. 

Tucker Carlson Tonight was the top individual show on cable news, edging its Fox News lead-out Hannity in both total viewers (4.33 million vs. 4.31 million) and adults 25-54 (791,000 vs. 754,000). Both figures were records for Carlson's show.