Fox News tops ESPN as most-watched cable network while CNN sheds nearly 90% of 2021 audience

Jesse Watters announces his new show, ‘Jesse Watters Primetime’

‘The Five’ reacts to Watters taking over Fox News’ 7 p.m. hour. It will premier on Jan. 24. 

Fox News Channel kicked off the new year as the No. 1 basic cable network from Jan. 3-9, 2022, as CNN saw staggering declines, shedding nearly 90% of its early 2021 audience in multiple categories. 

CNN averaged 2.7 million viewers from Jan. 4-10 last year as the network experienced a brief post-election spike but plummeted to only 548,000 average viewers last week, for a stunning year-over-year drop of 80% of its total audience. 

During the same time periods, Fox News averaged 1.4 million total viewers last week for only a 15% drop compared to the first full week of 2021, when a jam-packed news cycle that included the Capitol riot ensued. Fox News has now outdrawn CNN and MSNBC combined for 21 straight weeks. Fox also outdrew NFL-heavy ESPN’s 1.1 million viewers to finish as the most-watched basic cable option. 

Fox News Channel was the No. 1 basic cable network from Jan. 3-9, 2022.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

CNN’s eye-popping decline is even worse among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54, as the liberal network shed 86% of its viewers and finished last week with only 113,000 average viewers in the critical category after averaging 822,000 a year ago. 

Among the demographic of people age 18-49, CNN shed nearly 90% of its 2021 audience by dropping from 624,000 younger viewers to a dismal 73,000. 

MSNBC also dropped significant viewers compared to the same week last year, losing 67% of its total audience, 80% among the key demo and 83% of younger people. MSNBC averaged only 88,000 viewers among the advertiser-coveted demo to finish behind even struggling CNN in the category. Fox News crushed both liberal options with 223,000 average viewers among the demo, and it retained at least 65% of viewers in all total day categories. 

CNN’s problem attracting eyeballs was prevalent during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m., when it dropped from 4.2 million total viewers during the first week of 2021 to only 705,000 last week for a year-over-year drop of 83%. CNN also shed 89% of its primetime viewers among the key demo and a whopping 91% of viewers between the ages 18-49. 

MSNBC shed 66% of total primetime viewers, 81% among the key demo and 84% in the younger category, while Fox News retained at least 55% of primetime viewers in all categories. 

"The Five" finished as the most-watched cable news offering last week.

“The Five” finished as the most-watched cable news offering last week, averaging 3.4 million viewers. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” was the most-watched show among the demo, averaging 561,000 viewers in the critical category. 

Last year on Jan. 7, CNN boasted about coverage of the Capitol riot resulting in the most-watched day in the history of the liberal network. Many observers have mocked the network for tweeting about ratings success on what CNN anchors have regularly called one of the darkest days in American history, but viewership totals from the one-year anniversary of the riot indicate Americans have since turned away.

CNN averaged 5.3 million viewers on Jan. 6, 2021, but failed to crack 1.5 million during any hour of the day when the liberal network marked the anniversary of the riot with special programming. CNN averaged only 743,000 viewers on Jan. 6, 2022, for an 86% decline. CNN’s Jan. 6 coverage also shed 92% of its viewers among the key demo and 87% of primetime viewers.

CNN plummeted to only 548,000 average viewers last week for a stunning year-over-year drop of 80% of its total audience.    (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

CNN’s biggest drop was among the advertiser-coveted demo during primetime, when it averaged 3.2 million viewers last year and only 206,000 in 2022 for an astounding decline of 94%. 

Fox News averaged 1.6 million total viewers, 2.8 million during primetime and 449,000 among the primetime demo to crush CNN and MSNBC in all categories on the somber anniversary. Fox News was also the No. 1 cable news network during coverage of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks, drawing 1.7 million viewers and 270,000 among the demo.

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