Cable news networks saw big viewership gains last week from the week before, according to Nielsen Media Research, especially CNN, which doubled its primetime audience. This rise coincides with the spread of coronavirus and its designation as a pandemic and national emergency. CNN also hosted its most-watched debate of the election cycle last week.
The week of March 9 to 15, the top basic cable channel was Fox News with 1.992 million average total-day viewers. CNN same in second with 1.322 million average total-day viewers, a 57% increase from the week before, and MSNBC finished the top three with 1.295 million average total-day viewers. Those three kept their order for primetime, respectively bringing in 3.594 million total average viewers, 2.849 million total average viewers and 2.346 million total average viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
The bump was particularly noticeable for CNN, which was in third place behind MSNBC in the preceding week in both total-day and primetime viewers. Fox News was on top that week too, March 2-9, with 1.794 million average total-day viewers, followed by MSNBC with 1.132 million and CNN with 844,000. All three got a bump in primetime, too. From March 2 to 9, Fox News had 3.259 million average viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. MSNBC had 2.099 million and CNN had 1.345 million.
Last week, the top five basic cable channels were rounded out by Home and Garden TV, which brought in 668,000 total-day viewers on average, and Nickelodeon, which brought in 560,000. Both were a far cry from the millions tuning into the news channels, but the week before, ESPN sat in the fifth-place spot that Nickelodeon took over. Since coronavirus canceled most sporting events, the sports giant ceded its position to the kids’ channel.
The coronavirus bump isn’t only affecting cable channels. Sunday’s “Meet the Press” was dedicated to the pandemic and earned the NBC show its highest viewership in 11 years with 4.657 million total viewers. Last Thursday’s “World News Tonight With David Muir” on ABC was the top telecast in total viewers across cable and broadcast for the week, according to Nielsen data. In fact, all five nightly broadcasts from ABC News appeared in last week’s top eight programs. The other three slots included Tuesday’s “NCIS” and Sunday’s “60 Minutes” on CBS, as well as the Democratic debate on CNN.
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