Who needs an election? For the cable news networks, the first three months of Donald Trump's presidency have thus far been quite good for business - better, for the most part, than the last quarter of 2016.
Sure, the new administration may not be showing much deference to the media, but it has been producing daily stories since the Jan. 20 inauguration. "Daily" is the key word there. While primetime viewership indeed swelled, total day is where some networks saw the most growth. Fox News Channel, for one, netted its most-watched and highest-rated total-day quarter ever. Average viewership for the full 24-hour day and seven-day week from January through March hit 1.7 million viewers (up 27 percent from a year ago) and nearly 360,000 adults 25-54 (a 32 percent boost).
All three networks were up in total day audience and demo. And the full week has the usual standings of FNC at No. 1, followed by CNN (enjoying its best first quarter in nearly 15 years) and MSNBC at No. 3.
FNC also has a lot of laudable wins in primetime, including Bill O'Reilly scoring the highest-rated quarter for any cable news program ever, but MNSBC's growth is also quite noteworthy - mostly because 9 o'clock flagship Rachel Maddow scored her first-ever monthly demo win in March. The host topped FNC's Tucker Carlson and CNN's Anderson Cooper among adults 25-54, peaking with her disclosure of some of Trump's past tax returns. (Carlson, in his first quarter, won overall.)
Across the board, the tally of series on FNC, CNN and MSNBC posting their best quarters ever is almost too long to list. And it proves that the comedown from the record-breaking 2016 will not be as steep as originally forecasted - if there is one at all.
A look at the full numbers (below) will show that CNN is down in primetime. But it is the only cable news network comparing to the first quarter of 2016, a quarter where they played host to many primetime debates and a town hall. (Remember those?)
FNC - 1.7 million viewers (+27 percent); 359,000 adults 25-54 (+32 percent)
CNN - 823,000 viewers (+13 percent); 265,000 adults 25-54 (+22 percent)
MSNBC - 776,000 viewers (+55 percent); 180,000 adults 25-54 (+40 percent)
FNC - 2.8 million viewers (+20 percent); 576,000 adults 25-54 (+19 percent)
CNN - 1.2 million viewers (-17 percent); 405,000 adults 25-54 (-11 percent)
MSNBC - 1.4 million viewers (+61 percent); 337,000 adults 25-54 (+49 percent)
For its part, financial channel Fox Business Network celebrated its second consecutive quarter atop CNBC in business day viewers, though CNBC still had the advantage in the demo.