Trump sycophancy pays off as Fox News earns highest ratings in network’s 23-year history

Fox News finished 2019 with the highest viewership of any cable network for the fourth consecutive year

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published December 30, 2019 5:05PM (EST)


Fox News has been criticized as a “destructive propaganda machine” and pro-Trump “state TV,” but its pandering to the president’s supporters has been rewarded with the highest ratings in the network’s history.

Fox News averaged 2.57 million viewers per night in 2019, the highest total in the network’s 23-year history, Deadline reports. The network finished the year with the highest viewership of any cable network for the fourth consecutive year.

Trump cheerleader Sean Hannity’s show was the most-watched cable news program for the third consecutive year, averaging 3.3 million nightly viewers. Tucker Carlson’s show finished a close second with 3.1 million viewers. Laura Ingraham’s show averaged 2.57 million viewers, while “The Five” averaged 2.55 million viewers each night.

MSNBC averaged 1.8 million nightly viewers. Rachel Maddow’s show finished only behind Hannity and Carlson with 2.78 million nightly viewers. But “Morning Joe,” which touted a record 1.1 million viewers a day, still finished behind Trump’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”

CNN, meanwhile, averaged just 1 million nightly viewers, led by an average 1.13 million viewers for Chris Cuomo’s primetime show.

All told, Fox News’ viewership ticked up about 3 percent from 2018. MSNBC saw a 3 percent decline, while CNN saw a 9 percent decline.

None of the three cable news networks finished in the top 15 cable networks among viewers in the coveted 18-49 age demographic, however. Fox News finished 19th, with an average of 250,000 nightly viewers in the demo. CNN and MSNBC finished 25th and 26th, respectively, with both posting around 200,000 nightly viewers in the demo.

The average Fox News and MSNBC viewer was 65 years old, while the average CNN viewer was 60 years old, AdWeek reported last year. But while MSNBC and CNN average hundreds of thousands of non-white viewers each night, Fox News’ viewers were more than 90 percent white and most of them are men.

“This is Fox News’s secret sauce: not production values, personalities or entertainment, but demography,” The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote. “Old men are the most dependably conservative of any age group, and old men watch the most cable news of any age group. Fox News’ core demographic — and, by the transitive property, its success — is a fortuitous alignment, the perfect captive audience for an interminable documentary of the conservative outlook on American life.”

But Thompson noted that “Fox News’ present-day strength is its future weakness.”

“Its success is concentrated among men well into their retirement. There is no polite way to say this, so one might as well be explicit: People don’t live forever,” he wrote. “If the future of your business relies on a dramatic and sudden extension of average human lifespans, your 10-year outlook is murky.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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