News channel ratings and rankings for the just-concluded third quarter provide an illustration of how political opinions and points of view are divided almost right down the middle in this country.
Here is what struck me most about the third-quarter numbers for the news channels when a source sent them to me the other day: While Fox News Channel is still the top-rated among the three news channels, the MSNBC numbers are not that far behind.
Some of the MSNBC audience tallies are in the same ballpark as the numbers for Fox News, which symbolizes how Balkanized our news media usage has become.
Birds of a feather flock together: In the third quarter of 2018, FNC’s “Hannity” was the top show in cable news with an average audience of 3.34 million viewers every weeknight. One can likely assume that the vast majority of this audience is in sync with Hannity’s conservatism.
MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow,” airing in the same 9-10 p.m. Eastern time period as “Hannity” on Fox, was in second place with 2.947 million. One can assume here that the lion’s share of her audience is as liberal as she is.
Sean Hannity is still drawing just shy of 400,000 more viewers per night than Maddow, which is not insubstantial. Still, if this divide between TV’s leading right- and left-leaning hosts is not quite 50-50, then it is at least pretty close at 53-47 (according to our calculations).
In terms of total network rankings, Fox News Channel was the top-rated network overall in all of cable TV, according to this set of third-quarter numbers. FNC had a total-day, seven-day-a week average of 1.401 million viewers. MSNBC was second with 1.042 million.
In prime time, FNC's third-quarter average was 2.457 million. MSNBC's was 1.859 million -- landing in second place in this category as well.
For its part, CNN was ranked seventh in prime-time with an average audience from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern of 1.028 million -- behind various non-news cable networks such as ESPN (No. 3), HGTV (No. 4), USA Network (5) and History Channel (6).
In the total-day rankings, CNN was fifth with an average of 755,000 viewers.
Among the individual cable news programs, including “Hannity” and “Maddow,” the top 22 shows were either on Fox News or MSNBC -- another illustration of how the right and left have staked out their respective territories in cable news.
After “Hannity” and “Maddow” in the 1 and 2 positions, respectively, the rest of the top 10 shows in cable news were: Third, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Fox); fourth, “The Ingraham Angle” (Fox); fifth, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (MSNBC); sixth, “The Five” (Fox); seventh, “Special Report with Bret Baier” (Fox); eighth, “The Story with Martha MacCallum” (Fox); ninth, “All In with Chris Hayes” (MSNBC); and 10th, “11th Hour with Brian Williams” (MSNBC).
As for CNN, which most people do not categorize as either left or right but somewhere in between, the first CNN show to appear in the rankings is “Cuomo Prime Time,” ranked 23rd with an average nightly audience of 1.21 million.