Fox News wins 2018 ratings race; MSNBC has its best year ever

Fox News finished 2018 in first place in the cable news ratings race, delivering the highest prime-time audience in its 22-year history, according to Nielsen Media research released on Wednesday. 

Overall, Fox News’s prime-time bloc averaged 2.5 million viewers, an increase of 3 percent from 2017. This year marked the first full year of the network's new prime-time schedule following the departures of Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly last year, who were the top-rated hosts on Fox in 2016. 

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Overall, Fox News finished No. 1 in all of basic cable and fifth overall on television behind only the "Big Four" broadcast networks. NBC averaged 6.5 million prime-time viewers, CBS saw 5.9 million, ABC had 4.3 million and Fox came in with 3.3 million.

“Fox News continues to outperform other basic cable networks, proving once again that our news coverage and premiere team of journalists and opinion hosts are the best in the business," CEO Suzanne Scott and network president Jay Wallace said in a joint statement. "With the recent launch of Fox Nation, an increased focus on digital and the strong ratings momentum we have built, we are confident that 2019 will offer our loyal viewers even more ways to engage with Fox News.”  

MSNBC also had a record-breaking year, finishing in second place among the news networks with 1.8 million viewers in prime time, an increase of 12 percent from 2017. Those numbers make the year the best in the history of MSNBC, which launched in 1996, the same year as Fox News. 

CNN finished the year in third place, averaging 990,000 viewers in prime time, a drop of 6 percent from last year. 

The top five programs on cable news were Fox's "Hannity" for the second straight year with an average viewership of 3.275 million, MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" with 2.881 million, "Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonCNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race Berkeley City Council member calls Tucker Carlson 'white supremacist goblin' GOP senator calls Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman congresswomen the 'four horsewomen of the Apocalypse' MORE Tonight" with 2.827 million, Laura Ingraham's "The Ingraham Angle" with 2.614 million and "The Five" with 2.380 million. 

In the key 25–54 demographic, to top five shows were the same, with the exception that MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" tied for fifth with “The Five.”

On the business news channels, the Fox Business Network topped CNBC for the second straight year in the category of “business day” viewers, according to Nielsen Media.

Overall, Fox Business registered four of the top five rated business network programs in 2018, with "Lou Dobbs Tonight" leading the way with an average of 345,000 viewers per night. 

CNBC did top Fox Business in the 25–54 demographic during the business day, however, with an average of 32,000 to Fox Business’s 25,000. 

CNBC was founded in 1989, while Fox Business launched in 2008.