Surprise: Fox News has bounced back and once again tops the cable news ratings

The recent predictions of the demise of the FOX News channel have proven to be premature. After FNC’s #1 prime time program, Tucker Carlson Tonight, was abruptly taken off the air three months ago, the country’s only mainstream right-of-center television news outlet lost a significant number of viewers in the 8 P.M. E.T. hour. Critics, from both the left and the right, pounced, exaggerated the numbers, and gleefully issued dire predictions of the end of FOX News’s two-decade long cable news ratings dominance.

In truth, FOX News since late April has continued to rank as the country’s most viewed news channel – with some exceptions when MSNBC, or even more rarely CNN, bested FOX. The ratings from this past week – the second of FNC’s new prime time schedule lineup (“The right voices at the right time” in the words of the promos) – show a resurgence of viewers, largely exceeding the ratings of CNN and MSNBC combined on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Significantly, FNC’s 8 P.M. E.T. hour – now hosted by Jesse Watters – has regained most of the viewers who tuned in nightly to watch Tucker Carlson Tonight which aired at that hour from October 2017 until last April 21.

“The right voices at the right time” FOX News evening hosts Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfeld. Photo courtesy of FOX News

The reasons for this recovery are several. Ultimately, conservative viewers have nowhere else to go in the MSM if they want a less biased view of the news. (Conservative channels favored by loyal MAGA fans like Newsmax and OAN, with their limited audiences and much less of a presence on cable and satellite TV, are not generally considered “mainstream media.”) This past week has seen escalating developments in the case of Biden family corruption, which CNN and MSNBC are almost totally avoiding covering. Instead, CNN and MSNBC are devoting endless hours, especially during prime-time programs, to snarky wall-to-wall coverage of the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice piling more charges (and promises of more indictments to come) on former President Donald Trump.

Since the canceling of Tucker Carlson’s program on April 24, FOX News has adjusted its programming especially in prime time. Greg Gutfeld’s satire-comedy late night program was moved two weeks ago to an hour earlier starting at 10 P.M. E.T. – and has become a major hit in prime time (generally considered 8-11 P.M.). It’s especially strong in the number of viewers in the demographic or “demo” – viewers between the ages of 25-54 that advertisers supposedly covet. Previous studies have shown that FNC’s average audience is older than its competitors, in the early 70s. Therefore, the inclusion nightly on Gutfeld’s show of more trendy regulars like Kat Timpf and “Tyrus,” and a spate of comedians, is apparently a hit with audiences and is drawing some younger viewers. Comedians like Jimmy Failla are also turning up on FOX News prime time programs lately.

Meanwhile, earlier this year MSNBC lost its most popular host, Rachel Maddow, who dialed back her competitive five nights a week show at 9 P.M. E.T. to Mondays only. That Tuesday-Friday time slot on MSNBC is now struggling in the ratings. At CNN, Kaitlan Collins was finally elevated to the 9 P.M. E.T. spot vacated after the firing of Chris Cuomo in late 2021. Her new show The Source continues to underperform. At the same time, the firing last month of Chris Licht, who was hired one year earlier as Chairman and CEO of CNN in order to help the channel move back to a more fair and balanced center, exposed the die-hard wokeness of CNN’s hosts and producers, who have now retaken control and steered CNN back to its 24/7 leftist bias.

The numbers tell the story

The Nielsen Research cable TV ratings have been the gold standard in the business since the 1950s. For Thursday July 27, the most recent day available (free registration required to view), FOX News had the most viewers – both total of all ages and in the demo (ages 25-54) – for the six hours between 5 and 11 P.M. E.T. The total day ratings and the prime time ratings were also a blowout for FOX News.

The 8 P.M. E.T. hour vacated by Tucker Carlson, and now hosted by Jesse Watters, on Thursday had 2,609,900 total viewers and 231,000 in the demo. On April 21, 2023 – which turned out to be Tucker Carlson’s final program on FOX News (which no one knew at the time) – Carlson’s ratings were 2,646,000 total viewers and 270,000 in the demo.

Cable television news ratings are susceptible to ups and downs depending on developments in the daily news cycle and other factors. With the race for the 2024 presidential election finally gearing up now, and legal entanglements of President Trump and further exposure of President Biden’s political vulnerabilities looming, anything could change in the days and weeks ahead.

A personal note

An article or blog here that suggests anything at all positive about FOX News is a magnet for comments from readers who boast that they have long ago “cut the cord” and/or are now boycotting FOX News. Fine, that’s everyone’s right.

In my case, as someone who has followed the news closely my whole life, there is no substitute for paying at least some attention to the FOX News channel. Do I like everything that it broadcasts? Of course not! But that’s what the remote control is for. Or the switch that turns the TV off. With the option of accessing a podcast, or music, or silence.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades.  He is a regular contributor to the BBC Radio and Television. His web page with links to his work is  Peter's extensive American Thinker archive:  Peter's Twitter account is @pchowka.

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