Pew Study: Cable News Viewership Up

Thanks in part to the presidential race, viewership was up for the three major cable news channels in 2015, with the first bump in daytime news audience growth in three years for the top three cable news operations in terms of viewership.

That is according to the latest Pew State of the News Media report, issued Wednesday.

The total average viewership over a 24-hour period for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC combined was up 7% in 2015 to 1.9 million over the year before, according to weighted data from Nielsen, and up 8% in primetime.

Fox News continued to lead the way with 1.1 million average viewers, up 3%. CNN showed the greatest increase, up 23% to 490,000. MSNBC was up 2% to 352,000.

In primetime, the key ad daypart, Fox, CNN and MSNBC combined for an average 3.1 million viewers. Fox remained the clear leader at 1.8 million, up 3% over 2014. CNN was the big percentage gainer in primetime, up 38% to an average 712,000. MSNBC was down 1% to 579,000.

Those viewership increases translated to a projected revenue increase of 10% in 2015 to $4 billion, with Fox claiming the lion's share of that at $2.3 billion, up 14%, followed by CNN, up 6% to $1.2 billion, and MSNBC, up 3% to $518 billion.

Fox was also projected to lead the way in terms of both increased subscriber fees, up 17% to $1.4 billion, and ad revenues, up 6% to $844 million.

CNN had the strongest growth rate in ad revenues, up 11% to $377 million.

Fox was way ahead in terms of profitability, at $1.5 billion, up 21%. CNN was projected to grow its profit by 17% to $381 million, while MSNBC was projected to be up 10% to $227 million.

Fox led the way in terms of projected spending increases on news, up 3% to $828 million. CNN was not far behind, up 2% to $817 million. MSNBC was projected to be down slightly (1%) to $291 million.

Among financial news channels, CNBC was the revenue leader in 2015 with $733 million, up a projected 4% over 2014, followed by Fox Business Network at $236 million, up 15%; and Bloomberg TV, up a projected 3% to $197 million.

Al Jazeera, which shut down in April 2016, was projected to have increased its revenue by 17% in 2015, but Pew provided no dollar figure.

On the digital side, comScore data suggests a large and mobile news audience. According to traffic data from January, NBCU (which includes MSNBC digital), Turner (CNN) and Fox News Digital all were ranked in the top 50 digital media properties in the U.S.

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.