Fox News hits highest viewership in network's 23-year history

Fox News averaged 2.5 million viewers per night in 2019, the most in its 23-year history, making the network the most-watched channel on basic cable.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News beat out ESPN, with its 1.78 million viewers, and third-place MSNBC, which drew an average of 1.75 million viewers in prime time. Fox topped its cable competitors for a fourth straight year, Nielsen said.

CNN finished 22nd, with an average of 972,000 viewers per night.

The top five shows in cable news for 2019 were Fox's "Hannity," with 3.3 million, followed by "Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonComcast shareholders reject proposals for outside sexual harassment investigation at NBC Cable news audience numbers jump amid coronavirus, protests Tucker Carlson tees off on Trump, Kushner: 'People will not forgive weakness' MORE Tonight," with 3.1 million.

MSNBC's "Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowWebb: The modern age of dissent versus riot Cable news audience numbers jump amid coronavirus, protests Demings: 'America is on fire' and Trump 'is walking around with gasoline' MORE Show" was third, with 2.78 million, followed by Fox's "The Ingraham Angle," with 2.57 million, and "The Five" at 2.55 million.

Carlson and Maddow switched places in the 2019 rankings compared to the previous year, when Maddow claimed the No. 2 ranking. 

Among broadcast networks, CBS took the top spot with an average of 7.14 million viewers in prime time. NBC was second, with 6.33 million, followed by ABC, with 5.19 million. Fox TV was fourth, at 4.62 million, but it was the only broadcast network among the four to increase viewership from 2018.