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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.

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The top five shows for the month included Fox's "Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonEx-Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell files lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia The Memo: Trump election loss roils right More conservatives break with Trump over election claims 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.

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.

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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 ClintonValadao unseats Cox in election rematch Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College Federal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work MORE and the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape involving President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden 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.