Ad-supported cable business’ fortunes continue to decline unless it’s live programming — news and sports. Cable news networks Fox News and MSNBC and sports-focused ESPN repeated as 1-2-3 atop all basic cable networks in total viewers in Live+7 Nielsen ratings for 2019. That is all the more impressive because live non-entertainment programming gets very little delayed viewing, and even more important for advertisers who put a premium on ad-supported content where commercials can’t be skipped.
Game of Thrones and Monday Night Football would be top-10 shows on network TV, and The Walking Dead remains a strong demographic hit, but there’s a big drop from there.
Just 18 of 78 ad-supported entertainment channels held or increased their audiences vs. 2017. Only 13 had adults 18-49 ratings matching or improving on the previous year, and among the younger subset of adults under 35, just six managed not to lose ground.
While the Trump era has been a boon to cable news in general, Fox News finished 2017 as the most-watched basic cable network in both primetime (with an average of 2.4 million viewers) and total day (1.5 million), according to Nielsen ratings. And Fox’s website, long neglected under former leader Roger Ailes, emerged as a powerful complement to its broadcast partner.
Fox News had a story at the height of the presidential election that detailed an alleged sexual relationship between porn actress Stephanie Clifford — whose stage name is “Stormy Daniels” — and Donald Trump, but opted not to publish it, four people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Only one of the top 10 most-viewed cable nets in primetime this year saw viewership growth relative to 2016. MSNBC was the pleasant outlier, notching a massive 50% YOY increase in primetime viewership with 1.62 mlllion viewers P2+. That was good enough for the cable news net to jump from No 10 in prime last year to No 3 this year. The rest of the top 10 saw primetime viewership decrease to varying degrees.