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Fox News Channel tops first quarter of 2023

The newsroom of the Fox News Channel appears in an undated photographer. (Image courtesy Fox Corporation)

The Fox News Channel finished the first measurable quarter of 2023 as the top cable news channel in the United States, according to data collected and analyzed by Nielsen Media Research this week.

The data, which was made available to reporters by a Fox News Media spokesperson, showed the cable news channel bested rivals CNN and MSNBC in total day and primetime viewers. It also saw a bigger audience among the key demographic of viewers aged 25 to 54 years old compared to rival networks, the data showed.

The report measured viewership between December 26 of last year and March 24 of this year, which is considered the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 by Nielsen. During that period, Fox News saw an average of more than 1.364 million viewers tune in on a weekly basis, compared to CNN’s 478,000 viewers and MSNBC’s 703,000 viewers.

Across the three cable news brands, the number of average viewers declined year over year, with CNN seeing the biggest decrease. The data showed CNN’s audience eroded by 27 percent during the first quarter of the year compared to Q1 2022.  Fox News had the second-biggest audience drop, with viewership down 15 percent in Q1 2023 compared to last year. MSNBC’s audience dipped 9 percent.

Prime-time viewership was also down on a year-over-year basis, though Fox News continued to dominate with more average viewers during the week compared to the other two networks.

In prime-time, Fox News saw an average of 2.088 million people tune in between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to Nielsen data, down 18 percent compared to the same quarter in 2022. MSNBC prime-time audience average was second with 1.11 million viewers, down 8 percent, while CNN had the biggest year-over-year decline at 34 percent to end the quarter with an average of 568,000 viewers in prime-time.

The data included news broadcasts, commentary programs and non-live original shows, but didn’t include breaking news or special programming like the State of the Union broadcasts. By not including breaking news or original programming — which typically results in a one-off ratings bump for news — the data offers a more holistic view of a cable news network’s overall health when it comes to audience interest.

To that point, Fox News had the top prime-time programming across all cable news in March, with “Tucker Carlson Tonight” grabbing the most eyeballs with an average of 3.251 million viewers. Current events panel show “The Five” was in second place with an average of 3.058 million viewers, followed by “Jesse Waters Primetime” with 2.67 million viewers. Veteran broadcaster Sean Hannity’s show had 2.51 million average viewers, ranking fourth across prime-time in news.

Fox News programs also dominated with live and same-day viewers across cable news, with 15 of the top 20 shows aired on the network (including all top 10 shows). MSNBC programs took 5 of the top 20 slots across cable news, with “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” ranking the highest at 13, according to Nielsen.

Programs on CNN and Newsmax were among the top 80 shows aired on cable news as ranked in terms of overall viewers who watched live and same-day programming over a seven-day period. CNN’s highest-rated show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” placed 26th on that list, while Newsmax’s “Rob Schmitt Tonight” ranked highest at 48th. No programs aired by Nexstar Media Group’s upstart cable channel NewsNation made that list.

Across all cable channels, the Fox News Channel dominated with the largest average viewership over a seven-day period during the first quarter of 2023, as measured from Monday at 6 a.m. to the same day the following week:

  • 1. Fox News: 1.364 million viewers 
  • 2. ESPN: 812,000 viewers
  • 3. MSNBC: 703,000 viewers 
  • 4. CNN: 478,000 viewers
  • 5. HGTV: 472,000 viewers
  • 11. History Channel: 366,000 viewers
  • 19. Paramount Network: 237,000 viewers
  • 36. HLN: 150,000 viewers
  • 24. FX: 206,000 viewers
  • 48. CNBC: 117,000 viewers
  • 51. Fox Business: 109,000 viewers
  • 53. NewsNation: 102,000 viewers
  • 55. Weather Channel: 101,000 viewers
  • 60. VH1: 99,000 viewers
  • 63. Cartoon Network: 95,000 viewers
  • 64. Newsmax: 92,000 viewers
  • 87. Vice TV: 32,000 viewers
  • 110. AccuWeather: 7,000 viewers

While Fox Business was behind CNBC in terms of average viewership on a seven-day basis, the channel earned high ratings during market hours, beating CNBC for the 12th consecutive month by this metric.

Fox News and Fox Business are part of Fox News Media, a subsidiary of Fox Corporation.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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