Fox News Channel ratings top all cable networks for first time

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For the first time in its nearly 20-year history, Fox News Channel clocked the biggest quarterly crowd in basic cable, in primetime and in total day. In total day, FNC delivered its highest rated quarter ever in total viewers.

In outranking all other cable networks for the full quarter, FNC spent the past 10 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 cable channel in total day viewers.

The news channel, which has spent the past 14 years outstripping its cable news competition, this time bested all cable comers. In primetime, the network logged 2.37M viewers (up 26%), and 483K of them falling into the key news demo of viewers 25-54 years (up 50%). FNC’s total viewer take routed CNN’s 1.4M and MSNBC’s 888K. CNN jumped a whopping 165% compared to same quarter last year, while MSNBC grew 66%.  Among 25-54 year olds, FNC edged out CNN’s 455K and bested MSNBC’s 226K. Here too, CNN soared, by 143%, to MSNBC”s 71% spike.

In total day, the network averaged 1.35M viewers (up 14%)  and 271K news demo viewers (up 23%). In overall audience, FNC’s total day tally  bests CNN’s 732K and MSNBC’s 502K combined. CNN is up 57% compared to first quarter of ’15 and MSNBC is up 59%. In the news demo, FNC’s 271K edged out CNN’s 217K and MSNBC’s 131K. MSNBC is up 54%, compared to CNN’s 48% gain and FNC’s 30%.

To get there, FNC notched the Top 14 cable news programs in total viewers and nine of the top 10 programs in the news demo.  "The O’Reilly Factor" at 8PM ET continued as the most watched program in cable news and garnered its highest-rated quarter in both total viewers (3.4M) and news demo (598K) since 2012. "The Kelly File" at 9PM ET delivered its most-watched quarter since its launch in October 2013 (2.5M). They were closely followed by "Special Report w/ Bret Baier" (2.4M), "The Five" (2.3M), and "On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren" (2.1M). But FNC’s "Hannity" was up the most among FNC primetime programs for the quarter  in total viewers (1,882,000, up 35%) and the demo (434,000, up 39%), delivering its highest-rated quarter since the net re-configured its primetime in ’13.

Also in the quarter, FNC logged top-rated primary debate of 2016, on March 3rd, averaging 17 million viewers. The network delivered the highest-rated primary night in cable news history on March 15th, with over 5M in total viewers for coverage of the Michigan and Ohio primary results, topping both MSNBC and CNN.

CNN, meanwhile, bagged its most-watched quarter in total day in seven years, and best primetime since 4Q 2008 in total viewers and the news demo. On the weekends, CNN ranked No. 1 in the first quarter across cable news among those viewers 25-54 in both total day and primetime. Of particular note, CNN narrowed the gap with Fox News to the closest it’s been in at least seven years in both total viewers and the news demo, in total day and in primetime. Fueling CNN’s quarterly ratings hikes were its 12 debates and town halls in the first quarter. MSNBC boosted its numbers with one debate and five town halls; FNC telecast two debates and one town hall.

MSNBC, meanwhile focused its 1Q ratings talk on its dayside gains for the quarter. In the daypart, the NBCU cable news net scored its best quarter in three years, in total viewers and the news demo. The network credits its shift to a renewed focus on breaking news in the Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM daypart. And, "Morning Joe" clocked its best quarter ever for MSNBC in the 6-9 AM timeslot.

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