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Broadcast networks, Fox News most-watched TV channels of 2019

This year goes to the broadcast networks.

The “big four” over-the-air television networks were the most-watched linear TV channels in 2019, according to Nielsen data compiled and analyzed by trade publication Variety on Friday.

CBS was the most-watched network in America with an average overall viewership of 7.14 million households. Though the figure was down 4 percent from last year, it was enough to take the lead away from NBC, which drew just 6.3 million viewers compared to 7.87 million last year, a 19 percent drop in viewers.

ABC remained in third place with 5.1 million viewers this year, a 4 percent drop compared to last year’s 5.4 million viewers. Fox was the only network of the big four to gain ground this year with 4.62 million households tuning in, a 3 percent increase.

The Ion Television Network, a pay television channel with some broadcast affiliates, was the fifth most-watched broadcast channel and eighth most-watch overall channel in the country, beating HGTV, Hallmark Channel and Comcast-owned USA Network.

The Fox News Channel was the most-watched pay television channel and the fifth most-watched television channel overall with an average of 2.5 million households tuning in to watch ongoing political coverage and conservative-leaning commentary. It was followed by ESPN with 1.7 million viewers and MSNBC with 1.7 million viewers.

Of the big three cable news networks, CNN drew the fewest viewers — an average of 965,000 households, placing it behind other AT&T-owned networks like TBS and TNT and niche channels like Investigation Discovery and the History Channel. CNN was the 22nd most-watched channel of the year, drawing around 40,000 fewer viewers than the CW Network.

Univision was the most-watched Spanish TV network with 1.3 million viewers tuning in, a 10 percent drop compared to last year. Telemundo was a close second with 1.2 million viewers tuning in, though its drop in viewership was significantly less than Univision’s — just 1 percent.

HBO topped premium multiplex networks, though it managed to pull an average of just 630,000 viewers to its linear TV channels. The drop in live  TV viewerships was likely fueled by an increasing trend toward subscribers cancelling their cable and satellite subscriptions  toward online-only options, a practice known as cord-cutting. Parent company AT&T distributes HBO online through a standalone app called HBO Now as well as third party apps operated by Apple, Roku and Amazon.

ViacomCBS-owned Nickelodeon was king of children’s television programming with an average of 728,000 viewers , more than Disney Channel (534,000 viewers), Disney Junior (424,000 viewers) or the Cartoon Network (386,000 viewers). Nickelodeon was the 25th most-watched overall channel.

The data compiled by Variety evaluated linear, or live, television channels based on Nielsen data. It did not incorporate viewership on network streaming apps, though Nielsen does include data on over-the-top linear streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Philo.

A list of the 25 most-watched television channels is below:

[table id=12 /]

(Nielsen, NPM (12/31/2018 – 12/01/2019, Live+7 & 12/02/2019 – 12/15/2019, Live+SD vs. 01/01/2018 – 12/02/2018, Live+7 & 12/03/2018 – 12/16/2018, Live+SD) Monday – Saturday 8pm – 11pm/Sun 7pm – 11pm. Ranked by Variety Magazine based on 2019 Year-to-Date data.)

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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 11 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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