Fox News finishes year as most-watched cable channel in history despite losing viewers post-election

The Fox News Channel was the dominant force in cable news in 2020, becoming the highest-rated in the history of cable news in both daytime and primetime viewership, the network announced Wednesday.

In addition, network officials said FNC will finish this year as the most-watched cable news channel for the fifth year in a row, including the most-watched program, Hannity.

“This ratings milestone is a testament to the incredible work of the Fox News Channel team during a pivotal year,” said Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott. “We are immensely proud and honored to once again serve as the destination for news and opinion in America.”

According to figures, Fox News averaged 3.6 million viewers between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT to become the first cable news outlet to average more than 3 million viewers in primetime for a whole year.

In fact, Fox News blew away the competitors, the closest being MSNBC which averaged 2.1 million viewers to come in second place. The two top networks were followed by CNN, ESPN, and HGTV.

The network’s primetime powerhouse, by far, is Sean Hannity: He garnered an average of 4.4 million viewers to come in at No. 1 for the fourth straight year, also notching the most-watched, highest-rated cable news program in history.

Nipping at his coattails, however, was network star Tucker Carlson, who brought in an average of 4.37 million viewers.

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Both shows averaged more than 4 million nightly viewers, Fox News said, another first in cable news history.

In third place was The Five, which averaged 3.6 million viewers airing at 5 p.m. EDT. The Ingraham Angle, hosted by Laura Ingraham, was fourth but was the most-watched female cable-news host, ahead of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, whose program was the fifth-most-watched overall this year.

Ingraham just signed a new multi-year contract to remain with Fox for the foreseeable future.

CNN’s viewership figures were once again, dismal in comparison. The original cable news franchise’s top-rated show was Cuomo Prime Time, hosted by Chris Cuomo, which only averaged about 1.8 million viewers each night. He finished 21 — behind 13 other Fox News programs and seven airing on MSNBC, according to ratings data.

Carlson’s show garnered the most viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, with an average of 798,000 viewers in that classification. Meanwhile, Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, The Five, and Special Report with Bret Baier,  joined Sean Hannity in the top five, as Maddow’s program was seventh in that demo.

During daytime, Fox News averaged 1.9 million this year, beating out MSNBC’s average of 1.2 million. They were followed by CNN, HGTV, and the Hallmark Channel to form the top five.

In all, Fox News averaged 351,000 in the key demo, which was the highest figure for all basic-cable offerings. In primetime, the network averaged 645,000 in the 25-54 demo, which was the highest for the second consecutive year.

FNC added:

“Fox & Friends,” “America’s Newsroom,” “Outnumbered,” “Outnumbered Overtime,” “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” “The Five,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity,” “The Ingraham Angle,” “Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream” “Fox & Friends Weekend,” “Cavuto Live,” “Journal Editorial Report,” “Fox Report with Jon Scott,” “Watters’ World,” “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” “The Greg Gutfeld Show,” “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,” “MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz,” “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton” and “Life, Liberty & Levin” all had their best years ever in either total viewers, the demo or both.

Nevertheless, in recent weeks viewers have left the network for other right-leaning programs on other outlets including Newsmax and One America News, following Election Night coverage that was highly criticized.

The network was the first to call the state of Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden very early, though it refused to call other states for President Donald Trump even though he appeared to be winning them handily.

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FNC also claimed that Democrats were going to pick up seats in the House when, in fact, Republicans picked up several seats and the Democrats’ majority shrank dramatically.

Conservative talk king Rush Limbaugh ripped the network over its coverage, saying FNC was forgetting “the people who got you where you are” in an effort to befriend “enemies.”

“You do not turn on your base. You do not turn on your audience unless you’ve had some kind of — you just don’t — you don’t do it for the sake of the approval of your enemies,” he said. “You don’t turn on the people who got you where you are because you would rather be friends with other people. You just don’t do it. And that appears to be what’s happened here.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported earlier this month that Newsmax scored a ratings win over Fox News for the first time, with Greg Kelly Reports bringing in more key 25-54 viewers than The Story with Martha MacCallum.

Jon Dougherty

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