Heavy interest in Presidential election-year news and issues around the COVID-19 pandemic in the third quarter drove Nielsen-measured prime-time viewing for three major cable TV news networks up 40% to 47% vs. the same period a year ago -- with CNN making the biggest gains and Fox News Channel remaining a top viewing network.
For the third quarter, CNN was up 47% to 1.53 million viewers, followed by Fox News Channel with 44% more to 3.51 million and MSNBC 39% higher to 2.1 million viewers.
Nielsen results were measured for live program-plus-same day time-shifted viewing.
Total day ratings witnessed similar results, with Fox News Channel gaining 29% to 1.75 million, MSNBC 37% higher to 1.21 million, and CNN 56% higher to 971,000 viewers.
The top Fox News Channel prime-time shows for September were “Tucker Carlson Tonight” at 4.6 million and “Hannity” at 4.5 million, followed by MSNBC’s best with “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 3.4 million and CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” at 1.8 million viewers.
Third-quarter results are slightly down from the previous year's second-quarter period -- a collective 7.14 million prime-time viewers versus 7.37 million in the second quarter.
The second-quarter gains were largely attributed to an intense news cycle focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, as well as the dramatically sinking economy.