Fox News racked up its seventh straight year as the most-watched cable news channel, delivering an average prime-time viewership of 2.1 million, 40% more than 2007, according to data released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. CNN placed second with 1.3 million, up 69%, while MNSBC drew 920,000, a boost of 82%.
CNN logged the best year in its 28-year history in viewership and adults 25-54, as did HLN, the onetime Headline News. MSNBC gained momentum and had its best year ever.
Cable took the largest share of the news-viewing pie that it has ever gotten. Fox News and CNN continually broke records, with CNN garnering 13.3 million viewers for Election Night, up 109% compared with 2004.
Nielsen said that 2008 was Fox News’ highest-rated year in total day and primetime. It averaged two million viewers in primetime, compared with 1.3 million for CNN and 918,000 for MSNBC. It was a record year in viewership for “The O’Reilly Factor” (the top-rated show in cable news) as well as for “Hannity & Colmes” and “On the Record With Greta van Susteren.” It also was the highest ratings year on record for “Fox & Friends,” which handily beat the competition, and “Special Report With Brit Hume.”
MSNBC was the year’s fastest-growing cable network; it beat CNN in places in the demo and got close in households. Two hours in primetime — 8 p.m.’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” and the newcomer, 9 p.m.’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” — have improved the network’s position against CNN for second place in primetime. “Maddow” is beating “Larry King Live” in the demo since its September 8 debut.