Maddow Tops Cable News Demo Ratings in January, But Fox Retains Overall Wins

The Rachel Maddow Show Still - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of MSNBC

MSNBC is the only network to post year-over-year growth in primetime and total day, as cable news starts to settle into the Trump administration.

Cable news' boom time may be slowing down a bit. For the first time since the 2016 presidential campaign was underway in earnest, MSNBC ranked as the only news network immune to year-over-year fatigue for the recent Nielsen ratings month.

The channel delivered double-digit growth across the board, with Rachel Maddow eking out a notable victory in the key news demographic over Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity — though the regularly dominant FNC did manage to hold on to its overall advantages in both primetime and total day.

Maddow and Hannity engaged in another tight back-and-forth, with Maddow winning her third consecutive month in the demo since Hannity moved to 9 p.m. Her average of 678,000 adults 25-54 topped Hannity's 660,000. Among total viewers, it was Hannity who held the advantage. The FNC flagship outperformed MSNBC's golden gal, 3.27 million viewers to 3.03 million.

Overall primetime scores saw MSNBC narrow the gap with FNC among adults 25-54, up 51 percent from January 2017 with an average 412,000 in the demo to FNC's 476,000. Both networks greatly outperformed CNN and its average 329,000 adults 25-54. It's also worth noting that January 2017 was a particularly big month for the cable news networks, with many eyeballs tuning into the official transition between the Obama and Trump administrations.

2017 bucked all previous post-election year trends for cable news, with overall cable news consumption improved from 2016. Still, that overall trajectory may be starting to slow. MSNBC's big percentage gains represent an invigorated audience, but significant percentage gains are more easily attained when you're starting with a smaller base. And, a year ago, MSNBC was just beginning to climb out of third place.

The year-to-date has not yet seen a true marquee night for cable news coverage, certainly not like the inauguration last January. Tuesday's State of the Union should change that. Though the broadcast networks typically benefit most from coverage of the annual presidential address, the evening will likely bring big lifts for all three cable networks.

For now, here's January 2018 and comparisons to January 2017.


FNC: 2.46 million viewers (down 14 percent); 476,000 adults 25-54 (down 16 percent)
MSNBC: 1.86 million viewers (up 61 percent); 412,000 adults 25-54 (up 51 percent)
CNN: 927,000 viewers (down 20 percent); 329,000 adults 25-54 (down 15 percent)

Total Day

FNC: 1.94 million viewers (down 17 percent); 308,000 in 25-54 (down 17 percent)
MSNBC: 1 million viewers (up 55 percent); 224,000 in 25-54 (up 45 percent)
CNN: 713,000 viewers (down 10 percent); 237,000 in 25-54 (down 4 percent)