Pew: Led By Fox, Big Cable News Nets Fare Well in 2020

Pew Research Center
(Image credit: Pew Research Center)

Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a good year for cable news channels on a number of fronts, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Tuesday (July 13), with Fox News leading the way.

Pew, which issues an annual review of key audience and economic indicators from a variety of sectors and sources, pointed out that the prime time viewership for the three biggest news channels--CNN, Fox and MSNBC--were all up.

Fox's audience increased by over a million viewers in prime time, from 1.92 million to 3.08 million.

CNN's prime time audience was up almost 800,000, from 1.05 million viewers in prime time to 1.8 million, the largest percentage increase among the three at 72% increase, while MSNBC's audience increased by 28%, from 1.6 million to 1.3 million.

Pew noted that Newsmax, which "rose to prominence" during the recent election when former President Trump was disaffected with Fox at times and suggested Newsmax and One America News Network as alternatives to his followers. It averaged 115,000 viewers in prime time, the first year that stat has been available.

When it came to total revenue, each of the Big Three saw 3%-5% increases in 2020, with Fox again topping the list at $2.9 billion, over a billion more than CNN ($1.7 billion) and MSNBC ($1.1 billion) according to Kagan.

That was driven by ad revenue increases across all three since affiliate license fees were slightly down for all of them.

Pew said that while Newsmax made$26 million in revenue in 2020, all of that came from advertising, with the channel reporting no license fee revenue.

When it came to the bottom line, profits for the Big Three were up roughly 6-7%, while Newsmax lost $1.5 million in 2020, again the first time that data was available.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.