Q3 2013 Cable News Ratings: Fox #1 Overall, MSNBC #2 in Primetime, CNN #2 in Total Day


The cable news ratings for the third quarter are in and each of the big three networks can claim some form of victory. As usual, the network with the least need for spin–at least when it comes to ratings–is Fox, which has now been number one in total day and primetime for 47 consecutive quarters and 141 consecutive months. This leaves MSNBC and CNN in a fierce battle for second place. While MSNBC was able to claim a win over CNN in primetime, CNN managed to beat MSNBC in total day.

Below are the highs and lows for each network over the last three months.


As previously stated, Fox News continues to be the hands-down ratings winner across the board in cable news. The network often posts better ratings than CNN and MSNBC combined and was the 7th most-watched cable channel overall during primetime in Q3. Its competitors didn’t even break the top 30, with MSNBC at #31 and CNN at #34.

Bill O’Reilly remained the reigning champ of the network, with his 8pm hour dominating the rest of Fox’s primetime lineup. In total viewers, the top three shows on Fox last quarter were The O’Reilly Factor (2.540M); The Five (1.871M); and Special Report w/ Bret Baier (1.788M).

As for the 25-54 demo, Sean Hannity’s 9pm show broke into the top three. The O’Reilly Factor was still #1 (402K), Hannity was #2 (316K) and The Five was #3 (302K) in that category.


Despite significant drops from an election-centered third quarter of 2012, MSNBC managed to come out ahead of CNN in primtime total demo viewers over the last 3 months. MSNBC had 568K total viewers in primetime compared to CNN’s 542K and 190K in the 25-54 demo compared to CNN’s 179K. At the same time, MSNBC was down 39% over last year in total viewers and down 36% in the demo.

Much of MSNBC’s success can be credited to Rachel Maddow, whose 9pm show continues to lead the progressive pack. The Rachel Maddow Show was the highest-rated show in terms of total viewers (734K) and the demo (204K) for MSNBC, and the only show on the network to break the top 10 for the demo in Q3. There remains a hefty gap between Maddow and first-place finisher Hannity at 9pm, and it will be interesting to see if that divide grows or shrinks when Megyn Kelly takes over the time slot on Fox.

Not including the late night special MSNBC Investigates, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell was #2 with 632K total viewers and 178K in the demo. The new 5pm weekday edition of The Ed Show was #3 in total viewers with 628K and All In with Chris Hayes was #3 in the demo with 155K.


CNN’s big victory for the quarter came in the total day category, which takes into account the full day’s schedule and not just the closely-watched primetime hours. For the second straight quarter, CNN topped MSNBC’s total day numbers in both total viewers and the 25-54 demo. Unlike Fox and MSNBC, CNN’s numbers were actually up over Q3 2012, with 421K total viewers (compared to MSNBC’s 374K) and 135K in the demo (compared to MSNBC’s 130K). CNN was up 9% in total viewers over last year and up 14% in the demo.

Anderson Cooper was the undisputed ratings leader for CNN. His 8pm broadcast was #1 in total viewers for the network with 601K while his 10pm broadcast topped the list in the demo with 197K. In total viewers, Piers Morgan Live took the #2 spot for CNN with 561K while The Lead with Jake Tapper at 4pm was #3 with 535K. Meanwhile, Cooper managed to occupy the top 4 spots for CNN in the demo, between his 8pm broadcast (185K), 11pm rerun (182K) and recently added AC360 Later (168K).

While CNN’s struggling morning show New Day continued to trail Fox’s Fox & Friends and MSNBC’s Morning Joe across the board, the 6-9am hour was up over the same period last year for CNN. The time slot was up 29% in total viewers (303K vs. 235K) and up 15% in the demo (107K vs. 93K) in Q3. During that same period, Morning Joe was down 14% (397K vs. 463K) in total viewers and down 20% in the demo (132K vs. 166K). Fox & Friends also lost viewers in Q3, dropping 3% in total viewers and 22% in the demo.

— —
>> Follow Matt Wilstein (@TheMattWilstein) on Twitter

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under: