After dominating cable news ratings for years, the Fox News Channel has been knocked from its top perch left-wing rival MSNBC in key time slots amid an ongoing viewer revolt following the network’s dismissal of top-rated host Tucker Carlson.
“Nielsen data regarding the week ending this past Sunday was shared on Twitter on Tuesday by A.J. Katz, a reporter specializing in the cable news business. According to the data, Fox’s primetime 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET viewership averaged 1,504,429. The average viewership for the more left-leaning MSNBC over the same time frame averaged 1,520,857, narrowly beating out the conservative network that has long been a leader in cable news viewership,” Newsweek reported.
“Barring a last-second data reporting change, Fox’s 120-week-long winning streak in primetime appears to be over,” Katz wrote.
The network has not yet announced a permanent replacement for its 8 p.m. ET primetime slot. In the interim, they have opted for a rotation of guest hosts for the hour. Media Matters reports that viewership in this timeslot has declined by half since Carlson’s departure, with viewership across the entire lineup experiencing a general decline.
“The decline is also likely to have a negative impact on Fox News’s ability to negotiate higher fees from cable providers, as it was hoping to do before firing Carlson,” Newsweek added.
The change in rankings coincides with a news cycle that, as mentioned by Katz in a subsequent tweet, favors MSNBC, as the network tends to experience a rise in viewership during times when Trump encounters difficulties.
Katz noted further that the networks have, however, been on “opposite ratings trajectories” as CNN hemorrhages viewers to MSNBC. He went on to forecast that Fox would likely retake the lead spot this week, though by a smaller margin that continues to decrease.
Fox News has maintained an impressive streak of 120 weeks as the leader in average weekly primetime viewership, falling just short of two years and four months. The last time the network did not secure the top spot in weekly viewership was in mid-February 2021.
Around that time, Adweek reported a surge in viewership for MSNBC, surpassing CNN in average daily viewers. Although this marked a momentary shift in the rankings, Fox News still outperformed MSNBC in average monthly primetime viewership during that period.
Adweek’s report noted that MSNBC saw increased viewership in February 2021, driven by its coverage of significant events such as the second impeachment of Trump, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the initial weeks of Joe Biden’s presidency.
However, the report also noted that MSNBC’s viewership in February declined compared to the preceding month, which featured coverage of the January 6, 2021, Capitol riots and their political repercussions.
Since being taken off the air, Carlson has begun posting short monologues to Twitter, which Fox says is a violation of his contract. The network has sent him a cease-and-desist letter, though so far, he has refused to do so, arguing that Fox is in violation of their contract with him.
“With ‘Tucker on Twitter,’ Carlson and his growing production team are working to elevate Elon Musk’s social media site as a news platform. The cease-and-desist letter has ‘NOT FOR PUBLICATION’ in bold at the top. Fox continues to pay Carlson and maintains that his contract keeps his content exclusive to Fox through Dec. 31, 2024,” Axios reported.
“Carlson is making a First Amendment argument for posting on Twitter and asserts that Fox has committed material breaches of his contract. Carlson’s first two Twitter episodes were straight-to-camera monologues. He plans to keep iterating with longer, more varied episodes and the addition of guests, Axios is told,” the outlet reported.