Buoyed by The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News just reported the best quarter in cable television history – better even than the final quarter of 2016, when the presidential race reached its stunning climax.
The O’Reilly Factor was the most-watched cable news show and had the best quarter ever for a cable television news program. O’Reilly averaged nearly four million viewers per night, followed by Tucker Carlson Tonight with 3.3 million, The Five with 3.03 million, Special Report with Bret Baier with 2.95 million, and Hannity with 2.87 million.
Fox News won the ratings battle for the 61st consecutive quarter, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday, and finished on top among cable news networks in total day and prime time viewership.
Fox News appears to be reaping the benefit of a decision it made last fall to move closer to President Trump. With the departure of Megyn Kelly, media observers were watching to see if the network would choose a Trump-friendly person to replace her or move to more moderate ground.
The decision to install “a pro-Trump host” – Tucker Carlson – into the prime time mix signaled the network was “doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration,” wrote Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine.
“Murdoch’s relationship with Trump has greatly improved since the depths of Trump’s battle with Kelly last year,” Sherman wrote. “I really like Rupert Murdoch!” Trump told guests at Mar-a-Lago during the holidays, according to an attendee. “Roger Ailes was a friend of mine, but Fox’s coverage is so much better since he left.”
According to a story in Politico entitled “Trump Gives Cable News a Ratings Boost in 2017,” Fox News said it “broke a network record” for ratings in every hour among 18- to-34-year-old viewers and was the number one-rated network overall and in prime time. The network had a 2.5 rating for the prime time hours, which equated to 2.244 million viewers per hour.
That represented a gain of 27 percent overall in the first quarter of 2016 and 32 percent among the key 25- to-54-year-old demographic.
Cable news viewership was up across the board. Rachel Maddow’s show was the top-rated program in the key 25- to-54-year-old demographic in the 9 p.m.-10 p.m. hour – the first show to win that hour in that demo in the network’s history. It drew more than four million viewers on the night it revealed President Trump’s 2005 tax return but dropped to 2.6 million the next night. In March 2016 versus March 2017 comparisons, her ratings climbed 106 percent.
MSNBC finished fifth among cable outlets with a 1.3 share, slightly more than half that of Fox News. But its ratings represent a gain of 55 percent in total day viewers and 40 percent in the key demographic during the first quarter of 2016.
CNN finished 12th overall with a 1.0 share, its highest rating in 14 years in the prized 25-54 demo and for total audience. Anderson Cooper 360° was its highest-rated show.
Also, MSNBC defeated CNN in Monday-Friday viewers, but CNN bested MSNBC when all seven days were considered.