Cable news October ratings explode as Fox News hits historic highs

Cable news ratings exploded in October across Fox News, CNN and MSNBC as all three networks saw record numbers for the month, with Fox News having the highest-rated month in cable news history, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The month included a positive coronavirus test for the president, who was briefly hospitalized, and a fever pitch on the presidential campaign trail. The month also included a presidential debate, a vice presidential debate and multiple town hall events.

Fox News led the way with a whopping 4.9 million total viewers in prime time, the highest number in the history of cable news dating back 40 years. MSNBC was second with 2.7 million viewers, followed by CNN with 2.4 million.


The top five shows for the month included Fox's "Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonCotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Conservation deal puts additional hurdle in front of embattled mine proposal Donald Trump Jr. joins Cameo MORE Tonight" with an average of 5.3 million viewers, followed by "Hannity" with 5.2 million and "The Five" with 4.1 million despite airing before prime time in the 5 p.m. EDT slot.

"The Ingraham Angle" delivered an average of just over 4 million total viewers, finishing fourth overall, with MSNBC's "Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowDemocratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Fauci hits back at GOP criticism over emails: 'It's all nonsense' MORE Show" rounding out the top five with 3.7 million.

All three of the major cable news networks also saw substantial growth when compared to the same month last year.

Fox News was up 83 percent year-over-year in total viewers and 139 percent in the key 25-54 demographic that advertisers covet most in prime time.

CNN saw a 98 percent increase in total viewers when compared to October 2019, and a 116 percent jump in the demographic, while MSNBC is up 38 percent in total viewers and 45 percent in the younger category.


The numbers across the board are particularly impressive when considering the news cycle of October 2016, which included two presidential debates, daily WikiLeaks dumps of emails concerning Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' Huma Abedin announces book deal Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records MORE and the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape involving President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE that dominated the news cycle for several days.

On the business channel front in 2020, Fox Business had its most-watched October in network history, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 13-year-old channel saw a 25-percent increase year-over-year when compared to Oct. 2019, averaging 247,000 viewers during business day programming.  CNBC -- which launched in 1989 -- averaged 276,000 viewers.

--Updated on Oct. 28 at 7:11 a.m.