Cable News Ratings: Fox News Has Highest Rated Year In Network History

Fox News will finish 2009 as the top-rated cable news network, a perch it has enjoyed for eight years running. But 2009--the first year of the Obama administration--also marks FNC's highest rated year in the channel's 13-year-history.

FNC topped the competition in all dayparts: morning (1 million total viewers, 340,000 viewers in news' target demographic of 25-54-year-olds); total day (1.2 million viewers, 323,000 in the demo); primetime (2.2 million viewers, 551,000 in the demo). Those numbers mark year-to-year demo gains of 14% in the morning, 16% in total day and 10% in primetime (Mon-Sun), according to Nielsen.

FNC saw double-digit gains for all of its programs. Year-to-year, Glenn Beck is up 96% among total viewers (2.3 million) and 148% in the demo (612,000). Special Report with Bret Baier posted gains of 25% among total viewers (2 million) and 33% in the demo (454,000). The O'Reilly Factor is up 13% among total viewers (3.3 million) and 27% (801,000) in the demo, marking its tenth consecutive year as the No. 1 cable news program.

The only other cable news network to gain market share year-to-year is HLN, which is still comparatively small, but has gained on sister network CNN in 2009. Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell was up 32% among total viewers (483,000) and 29% in the demo (188,000). Nancy Grace and Showbiz Tonight both had their best years on record. Nancy Grace posted gains of 13% among total viewers (957,000) and 9% in the demo (348,000) while Showbiz Tonight is up 13% among total viewers (431,000) and 18% in the demo (208,000).

MSNBC can also mark a milestone, as it will finish 2009 ahead of CNN in the primetime demo (8-11 p.m. Mon-Sun) for the first time, giving MSNBC a second-place finish in that category with an average of 284,000 viewers compared to CNN's 269,000. Meanwhile, for fourth quarter 2009, CNN is on pace to finish fourth in the primetime demo behind FNC, MSNBC and HLN (Mon-Fri).

For the year, CNN still tops MSNBC among total viewers (917,000 versus 822,000) in primetime. Both networks saw declines compared to network highs in 2008. MSNBC is down 24% in the primetime demo while CNN is down 42%.

CNN is still the second most-watched cable news network in total day averaging 614,000 total viewers and 186,000 in the demo; those numbers mark year-to-year declines of 12% and 24% respectively.

CNN has bucked the primetime opinion trend that has worked so well at FNC, MSNBC and more recently HLN.

At 8 p.m., MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann bested CNN's Campbell Brown by 42% among total viewers (1.2 million versus 824,000) and 57 % in the demo (365,000 versus 231,000). HLN's Nancy Grace will finish the year third in the timeslot among total viewers (957,000) and the demo (348,000).

At 9 p.m. CNN's Larry King Live took a hit of 12% among total viewers and 22% in the demo, but managed to best MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show among total viewers (1.1 million versus 1 million) and the demo, though it was quite close (305,000 versus 302,000).

At 10 p.m., CNN's AndersonCooper 360 is down 26% among total viewers (991,000) and 35% in the demo (315,000). FNC's On the Record with Greta van Susteren finished the year on top in the time slot averaging 1.9 million total viewers with 520,000 in the demo, for year-to-year gains of 14% and 16%, respectively.