TV Ratings: Fox News and CNN Surge in May, MSNBC Falters More

Baltimore unrest and new presidential hopefuls see (most) cable news nets climb, with the top two rising double digits.
Courtesy of Fox News; Courtesy of CNN
Megyn Kelly and Anderson Cooper

Nearing the halfway mark, it's proving to be an especially interesting year in cable news ratings. CNN's mostly been on the rise, with Fox News Channel still firmly at No. 1, while MSNBC continues to have troubles in daytime and primetime as its 2015 mandate to cover more breaking news inches forward.

May proved to be a huge month for CNN and FNC. The former, focusing heavily on unrest in Baltimore, and the latter, with a combination of Baltimore and developments in the 2016 presidential campaign, both surged double digits in primetime — vastly improving their respective ratings from the same time period last year.

FNC nabbed No. 1 status across the board, rising the most in primetime. The 8-11 p.m. programming block averaged 314,000 viewers in the key demo of adults 25-54. That's up 42 percent from May 2014. Though No. 2 by a margin of just over 100,000 viewers, CNN grew the most. It raised its demo haul by a whopping 51 percent to an average 231,000 viewers. Total viewership also brought big gains for CNN (44 percent) for an average 576,000 adults. FNC's ticked up 11 percent to more than 1.6 million viewers.

Daytime paints a story of more modest improvement for FNC. The network rose roughly 10 percent in both total viewers (982,000) and the news demo (194.000). CNN posted more significant growth in both measures, rising a respective 42 percent (an average 438,000) in viewers and 55 percent (144,000) in adults 25-54.

All told, CNN grew the most, year over year, of any top 35 cable network.

MSNBC notably sunk below the 100,000-viewer mark in the key demo for total day, falling to an average 83,000 adults 25-54. That means that for the past year, MSNBC's daily demo average has ranked below the historic fourth-place net: CNN sister HLN. Primetime also brought more drops for MSNBC. The network's total viewership (463,000) fell 14 percent, and its demo haul (125,000) dropped 18 percent.

Obviously the fluctuation will likely continue in the coming months, as the early presidential campaign hits its stride and all three nets devote more time to the 2016 election. FNC officially kicks off the season with the first GOP debate on Aug. 6.