by Wayne Friedman , February 24, 2021
Now, four months after the election — which witnessed rising fortunes for MSNBC and CNN initially — competition among cable TV news networks for viewership has tightened.
Since the beginning of the year through February 19, MSNBC held a slight edge as tops in prime time Monday to Sunday — with 2.56 million average viewers in Nielsen’s live program-plus-same day time-shifted data.
Fox News Channel is right behind at 2.55 million. Then comes CNN at 2.4 million.
Looking at the most recent week of February 15 – February 21 in prime time, Fox News Channel has retaken the lead — averaging 2.5 million. MSNBC is at 2.0 million; and CNN, 1.6 million viewers.
But total day viewership of that week remains closer: Fox News Channel, 1.3 million; MSNBC, 1.2 million; and CNN, 1.0 million.
CNN and MSNBC witnessed big viewership bumps after the November election and again with the January 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, and then with the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump earlier this month.
The week of former President Trump’s second impeachment trial — February 8 – February 14 — had MSNBC at 2.583 million viewers in prime time; Fox News Channel, 2.580; and CNN, 2.02 million.
For January, CNN was at 2.71 million prime-time viewers; MSNBC, 2.6 million, and Fox News Channel, 2.5 million.