Fox News Retains Ratings Lead in Second Quarter

Tucker Carlson - Fox & Friends - Getty - H 2017
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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow dominates in the key demo, but FNC continues to boast overall wins in all dayparts.

It may have been an explosive three months for cable news ratings and rankings — but with the second quarter coming to a close, Fox News Channel appears to be in no immediate danger of losing its hold on the ratings crown.

Again up over 2016, though not as dramatically as during the first three months of the year, the three big cable news networks continued to reap the benefits of the unrelenting story machine that is the Trump administration. The trio of FNC, CNN and MSNBC were up double digits among total viewers and the news demo of adults 25-54 in both total day and primetime.

The most contentious race has been in primetime. MSNBC made headlines in May with some key wins, but FNC's margin of victory is not as tight as those weeks would have implied. Between 8 and 11 p.m. ET, FNC out-rated MSNBC by 21 percent among adults 25-54 — an average 472,000 to 389,000. CNN posted a narrow No. 3 with an average 370,000. (CNN's real bragging point is in having its most-watched second quarter on record.) Primetime's total viewer race maintained the same rankings as in the demo.

Though Fox News remains No. 1 by both measures, in primetime and total day, what the network does not have is cable news' highest-rated show. For the second quarter, bragging rights go to The Rachel Maddow Show. The MSNBC program outpaced the nearest competition, FNC's Hannity, by 10 percent in the news demo. Tucker Carlson Tonight, which held down 8 p.m. for FNC for nearly the entire quarter after replacing The O'Reilly Factor, came in at No. 3 among adults 25-54. In Carlson's corner, his show did manage to outperform Maddow's among total viewers to rank as the most-watched telecast.

Across the entire cable news landscape, there is one network not reaping much benefit from the newsy year. Financial net CNBC is down, year-over-year, during the business day. The quarterly loss among total viewers, its third in a row to Fox Business Network, comes with average audience down 13 percent. (It retains adults 25-54 dominance, albeit by the financial networks' modest standards, with an average 29,000 to FBN's 21,000.)

Cable News 2nd Quarter 2017 Ratings vs. 2nd Quarter 2016

Total Day
FNC: 1.465 million viewers (up 27 percent); 314,000 adults 25-54 (up 46 percent)
CNN: 788,000 viewers (up 25 percent); 262,000 adults 25-54 (up 39 percent)
MSNBC: 886,000 viewers (up 73 percent); 206,000 adults 25-54 (up 57 percent)

FNC: 2,352,000 total viewers (up 19 percent); 472,000 adults 25-54 (up 34 percent)
CNN: 1,055,000 total viewers (up 10 percent); 370,000 adults 25-54 (up 19 percent)
MSNBC: 1,637,000 total viewers (up 86 percent); 389,000 adults 25-54 (up 78 percent)