Q1 2014 Cable News Ratings: CNN Remains in 3rd Despite March Surge


By going wall-to-wall with coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 plane over the last three weeks, CNN has made major gains in the ratings, even beating Fox News in the coveted 25-54 demo during prime time hours on a handful of nights. But CNN’s March success was not enough to keep the network out of third place in both the demo and total viewers during the first quarter of 2014.

With Q1 in the rearview, below is a look at the highlights and lowlights from each of the big three cable news networks over the last three months.

Fox News

Fox News ended Q1 2014 solidly in first place, in both the 25-54 demo and total viewers. Fox continued to beat CNN and MSNBC combined in total viewers across all day parts. In total day, Fox averaged 1.099M total viewers and 225K in the demo, up 3% and 5% respectively from Q1 2013. In prime time (8-11pm), Fox averaged 1.804M total viewers and 293K in the demo, up 4% and 5% respectively from Q1 2013. By comparison, CNN and MSNBC were either flat or down in those same categories compared to last year.

The O’Reilly Factor was once again the highest-rated show on Fox’s schedule last quarter, averaging 2.790M total viewers and 427K in the demo. The Kelly File was #2 in total with 2.228M and #3 in the demo with 342K. The Five was #3 in total with 2.131M and #2 in the demo with 366K. The rest of the top 5 included Special Report with Bret Baier and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren.

On cable TV as a whole, Fox News came in fifth in prime time. By comparison, MSNBC was #27 overall, while CNN tied for #34.


Though they have drifted into third place over the last few weeks, MSNBC was a solid #2 in total viewers and the 25-54 demo over the course of Q1, thanks in part to the network’s voracious coverage of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal. With 683K total viewers and 217K in the demo in prime time, MSNBC had its best quarter since Q1 2013. In total day, MSNBC also came in second place, behind Fox and ahead of CNN with 394K total viewers and 138K in the demo.

The Rachel Maddow Show remained the #1 show for the network last quarter, averaging 974K total viewers and 267K in the demo at 9pm. Hardball with Chris Matthews was second with 884K total viewers and 223K in the demo. And All In with Chris Hayes was third with 758K total viewers and 218K in the demo.


Essentially, CNN had a great last month but a lousy first quarter. Over the course of Q1, CNN ranked #3 in all major categories behind Fox and MSNBC. In total day, the network averaged 383K in total viewers and 122K in the demo. In prime time, CNN had 498K total viewers and 169K in the demo.

But when one zeroes in on March alone, things look much more positive for CNN. In total day, CNN surpassed MSNBC in the demo (164K vs. 127K) and among total viewers (498K vs. 379K). In weekday prime time, CNN came out ahead of MSNBC in the demo (240K vs. 201K), but MSNBC maintained its lead in total viewers. At the same time, CNN narrowed the gap with Fox last month. While Fox led MSNBC by 133% in the prime time demo in February, that gap between the two dropped to just 34% in March.

One other bright spot in the quarter for CNN came from its new original documentary programming. The premieres of Chicagoland and Death Row Stories ranked #1 in the demo during their time slots with 305K and 269K respectively.

[photo via screengrab]

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