The Fox News Channel, which has been the top-rated cable news network for more than 14 years, hit yet another milestone during the first month of 2016, when the FNC's audience jumped 30 percent in total numbers for the full day to again surpass the viewership of the Cable News Channel and the liberal MSNBC combined.
Fox News has been the ratings king ever since it surpassed CNN in the beginning of 2002, and the channel's audience made double-digit gains across the board from January of 2015 and had the top 14 programs in cable news while coming in as the second most-watched cable network -- behind ESPN.
According to an article by Chris Ahrens on the TV Newser website, Fox's numbers received a major boost from the debate of Republican candidates for this year's presidential election on January 28, when GOP front-runner Donald Trump did not participate in the event.
In addition, FNC gained 23 percent in the important demographic of viewers from 25 to 54 years of age, which gave the network a prime-time audience of 390,000 while total viewers grew 43 percent to reach more than two million.
The O’Reilly Factor continued to be the channel's top-rated program, and the show had its best month since November of 2012, Ahrens noted. “The Kelly File was also up double digits vs. last January. And Hannity showed the most growth, up 50 percent in viewers” and 47 percent in the important demo.
In addition, Special Report With Bret Baier at 6 p.m. and On the Record With Greta Van Susteren an hour later also made double-digit gains in viewers.
As NewsBusters previously reported, the Fox News Channel's ratings dominance is not a recent phenomenon.
In 2012, FNC ranked third in prime-time viewers, behind only the USA Network and ESPN -- while MSNBC and CNN came in 19th and 29th, respectively.
During that year, the Fox News prime-time line-up attracted 2.043 million in total viewers and 423,000 in the 24-54 demographic, while the daytime programs had an average of 1.152 million total views and 273,000 in the important age demographic.
Twelve months later, FNC had averaged 1.774 million viewers in prime time -- down 13 percent from the previous year's presidential election-driven numbers -- while CNN fell 15 percent, and MSNBC lost 29 percent.
However, one of the biggest developments in 2013 was the fact that Fox News made significant changes to its prime-time line-up that led to even higher ratings.
In head-to-head comparisons with their MSNBC counterparts at the time, Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m. doubled Chris Matthews' audience, and Bill O'Reilly nearly quadruped the numbers for All in With Chris Hayes,
Also, Megyn Kelly at 9 p.m. almost tripled Rachel Maddow's viewership, while Sean Hannity more than doubled Lawrence O'Donnell's audience during The Last Word.
During the third quarter of 2014, the Fox News Channel became “the most-watched (network during) prime time across all of cable in more than a decade -- even besting USA and ESPN."
In reporting that news, The Hollywood Reporter website accidentally declared that MSNBC had only drawn 150 adults from 25 to 54 years of age in the previous three months when the actual number was 150,000, which still left the liberal channel in third place among cable news programs.
By the end of 2015, Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal reported that "among the top 10 cable networks in terms of prime-time viewers, only Fox News Channel, HGTV and Discovery Channel are on track to finish 2015 on an upswing.”
According to Nielsen figures, Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers in prime time through December 15, a four percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier.
“The GOP debates and the emergence of Donald Trump as a Republican contender were definitely a boost for Fox News and CNN,” Flint noted. “CNN is up 40 percent in prime time, but it’s only 718,000 viewers, far below Fox. MSNBC was down one percent to 580,000, which suggests they’re still pondering the futures of Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell.”
With the presidential election looming large this year, it's possible that the Fox News Channel will continue to draw more viewers who are looking for “fair and balanced” coverage they can't find anywhere else on cable television.