After several months of challenging longtime cable-news giant Fox News, the ratings for MSNBC and CNN have fallen, propelling Fox News to the top of the ratings chart in virtually every timeslot.
At the end of May, spurred by a string of unfavorable news stories about President Donald Trump, the left-leaning MSNBC surpassed CNN and Fox News in the key 25-54 demographic during primetime for the first time since September 2000, and Rachel Maddow appeared to have solidified her position as the top cable-news host in the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News. Since then, Fox News has steadily recovered and is now dominating in the key demo, including against Maddow.
For instance, on Wednesday, Fox News beat CNN and MSNBC in every timeslot from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Fox News’ total day audience in primetime was significantly higher than CNN and MSNBC, coming in at 369,000 for the key demo, according to ratings provided by TV Newser.
The biggest winner of the night was Tucker Carlson, who had 598,000 key demo viewers for his 8 p.m. show on Fox News, 258,000 more than MSNBC’s “All In,” hosted by Chris Hayes. Anderson Cooper, whose show ran from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., finished 293,000 viewers behind Carlson at 8 p.m. and a whopping 312,000 behind “The Five” at 9 p.m., which finished first for the hour, beating out MSNBC’s Maddow.
In total viewers, Fox News’ victory was even more substantial. Carlson had 2.86 million viewers at 8 p.m., nearly 1.3 million more than Hayes.
On Thursday, Maddow's show returned to its place at the top of the cable-news mountain in the key demo, but Fox News won every other primetime timeslot in the key demo and Carlson had a larger total audience than Maddow.
Fox News' ratings are made more impressive by the fact its numbers have improved compared to this time in 2016, when millions of Americans were closely following presidential campaigns. Compared to its 2016 second quarter ratings, Fox News improved by double-digits in in total viewership in primetime and total day viewership, and the third quarter is off to a similar start.
CNN’s ratings relative to its competitors has suffered the most in recent weeks, following a string of damaging stories, including one that emerged on Tuesday, when CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski was accused of bullying a Reddit user who posted an animated image of CNN’s logo superimposed on the head of a wrestler who Trump “punched” in an old professional wrestling video, sparking outrage from critics. Trump had made the video famous by posting it on his Twitter account.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
Kaczynski suggested in his article CNN could reveal the identity of the Reddit user in the future if he stopped showing remorse for posting the video, which he reportedly apologized for repeatedly, despite it being a joke.
Right-leaning Fox News' performance has not proven to be an indicator of Trump's popularity. Since May 3, when the Real Clear Politics average of approval polls showed Trump with an average disapproval rating of 51.3 percent and average approval rating of 43.6 percent, the president's average approval rating has fallen noticeably, to 39.9 percent, with 54.7 percent of voters disapproving.