What happened to the rise of MSNBC? After showing historic growth–and a few months in 2017 when Rachel Maddow took the title of most-watched host in all of cable news, beating Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity–the just-released results of the May ratings period look very familiar: Fox News won–everything.
In ratings data released Wednesday by Nielsen Media Research, FNC extended its run of consecutive months at number one to a staggering 197, while building hitting another impressive milestone: Fox News Channel has now beaten every other network in basic cable for 23 months straight, based on total day ratings, with an average total day audience in May of 1.4 million viewers.
In prime time, Fox News destroyed its competition, with an average total audience of 2.381 million viewers, compared to MSNBC’s 1.384 million and CNN’s 835,000. Among viewers 25-54, the group most coveted by advertisers, FNC shook off a challenge in recent months from MSNBC to claim a clear victory: 461,000 viewers, well ahead of MSNBC (329,000) and CNN (265,000).
Fox News had 10 of the top 15 shows in cable news, with Sean Hannity taking the title of highest-rated host in cable news. In fact, aside from ESPN and the NBA Playoffs on TNT, Hannity outpaced every other show in basic cable. Hannity had an average total audience of 3.261 million, followed by MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (2.627 million), and FNC’s Tucker Carlson Tonight (2.617 million), The Ingraham Angle (2.617 million) and The Five (2.153 million).
In the demo, Hannity was first, followed by Maddow, Laura Ingraham, Carlson and MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
As I explained last week, the network’s efforts to manage massive change–in the form of both the loss of the network’s biggest stars and its iconic founder and chief executive–could have left Fox News vulnerable to a challenge from a network, like MSNBC, on a hot streak. But the swift actions taken to replace Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Megyn Kelly and to rebuild the network’s dominant prime-time lineup with new shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle with Laura Ingraham have been executed flawlessly, as has the management of the network’s new centerpiece star, Sean Hannity.
And in-house, even the departure of the iconic Roger Ailes was handled with consistency and clarity, leading up to the appointment this month of Suzanne Scott as Fox News chief executive–an insider credited with the successful deployment of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham as new stars who now sit among the top five highest-rated shows in cable news.
In May, prime-time viewership for the cable news networks was down overall except for Fox News, which grew 6% from the same period last year. CNN had the biggest declines, down a full 25%. Among viewers 25-54, Fox News was up slightly (+2%) while MSNBC fell significantly (-21%) and CNN dropped by more than a third (-34%).