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26 Impressive Cable News Viewership Statistics in 2020

Differences among various cable news lie in more than just the frequency they’re broadcasted on. These news sources have different viewership demographics, and by examining them, it might be possible to understand more about the news in question. This is why it’s so vital to learn a thing or two about the cable news viewership statistics.

Even in the age of the internet, cable news sources have a surprisingly powerful reach and influence. With the examination of cable news ratings 2020 statistics, it may be possible to track popular opinion. Although the statistics may not reveal everything, we might be able to discern the quality and reliability of the information they reveal through their interpretation.

Top 7 Cable News Viewership Statistics in 2020 (Editor’s Pick)

  • Daily time spent watching TV per capita in the US has fallen to 3.29 hours.
  • People over 50 watch TV seven minutes less than last year.
  • TV news has a monthly reach of 61% with adults 21–37 years old.
  • More than 57% of Americans have streaming service subscriptions.
  • BBC is the most trusted TV news brand in the US, even though it isn’t American.
  • 16% of US viewers learn about politics and government issues from cable television.

How Do Americans Get Informed on Crucial Issues?

1. 25% of viewers in the United States still use news websites or apps as the primary source of information.

(Statista)

Even today, 25% of viewers in the United States still use news websites or apps as the primary source of information. While social media has been talked about a lot recently, it is still in second place with 18%. These two digital mediums are, on their own, responsible for as much as 43% of all the information received by the average viewer. Mainstream media ratings are responsible for this fact.

2. 16% of Americans hear important news on cable television.

(Statista)

According to news network ratings 2020, 16% of Americans learn important news from cable television. About 16% hear them on local televisions, while about 13% of viewers do so on national network television. When combined, these figures make up about 45% of all viewership in the States. Compared to 43% that read news on the internet, it seems that television still has a slight advantage.

3. About 8% of US citizens hear their news on the radio.

(Statista)

Even in this day and age, traditional means of information can’t and shouldn’t be ignored or neglected. This is because about 8% of all US citizens still receive information from the radio. Moreover, about 3% of all survey participants admitted that they read the news about politics and government in print newspapers or magazines.

4. 61% of millennials read political news on Facebook.

(Journalism)

There is a significant discrepancy when it comes to where different generations read about political stuff. According to stats, about 61% of millennials read political news on Facebook. In comparison, when looking at the cable news demographics, 44% of them get this information from CNN. On the other hand, 51% of Generation X reads the same news on Facebook. For baby boomer statistics, the percentage goes down to 39%.

5. Baby boomers get 60% of political information from local TVs.

(Journalism)

Speaking of baby boomers, 60% of them get political information from local TVs. NBC News is the second most common source of information with 47%, sharing this spot with Fox News. ABC news is slightly behind with 44%, and CNN follows with 43% of total information influx. In general, cable TV viewership statistics show a much older demographic than ever before.

Cable News Numbers by the Network

6. Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN are the highest-rated news channels on US soil.

(Deadline)

When speaking about cable television news ratings, there are three major contenders — Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. However, Fox News has dominated the niche four years in a row. In 2019, Nielsen rating awarded it the highest mainstream media rating of all the top networks. On the other hand, if the topic is entertainment, then ESPN confidently wins among the 19–49-year-old people.

7. Both Fox News and MSNBC are predominantly watched by the middle class and white Americans (74% and 70%, respectively).

(Public Opinion Strategies)

According to a survey taken in February 2019, it seems that both Fox News and MSNBC are predominantly watched by middle-class Americans. Both of these news channels have 44% of middle-class viewership. Their audience is also predominantly white, with 74% of total viewership for Fox News and 70% for MSNBC.

8. On average, Fox News viewership is younger than that of MSNBC.

(Public Opinion Strategies)

When it comes to age groups, it is essential to mention that Fox News viewership demographic is somewhat younger than that of MSNBC. According to this survey, around 24% of MSNBC viewership is 65+, while only 20% of Fox News viewership falls under this age category. 

When it comes to the 35–49 demographic, Fox News also takes the lead with 24%, compared to MSNBC’s 19%. This confidently makes it the top news channel in the USA.

9. The average Fox News viewer is 65 years old.

(Showbiz CheatSheet)

The average age of Fox News viewers is 65. This is perhaps the most powerful message about the aging demographics of mainstream media sources. Still, since cable television seems to be the most popular amongst the older demographics, this is certainly expected.

10. CNN had the best August in the history of CNN digital.

(CNN Press Room)

In order to remain competitive, some mainstream media news outlets are exploring their digital options. According to their data, CNN digital had the best August in its history. Without a doubt, this was a significant attempt by the management of this network to rejuvenate CNN audience demographics

Speaking of the numbers, 176 million US-unique visits came to CNN’s digital properties in August this year. When it comes to global traffic, CNN had 212 million unique visits in July.

11. Fox News is the most-watched news in America, with 3.97 million monthly primetime viewers.

(Statista)

According to numerous surveys taken in June 2020, Fox News was the most watched news channel in America with the highest prime time TV ratings. Its average number of primetime viewers was around 3.97 million. However, the funny thing lies in the fact that CBS has a much greater viewership worldwide. Nonetheless, considering the nationwide statistics, Fox News definitely takes the lead.

12. The BBC is the most trusted TV news brand in the US, even though it isn’t American.

(MarketWatch)

One of the most surprising statistics concerning this topic is that the most trusted TV news brand in the US isn’t American. We’re talking about the UK-based BBC. The fact that the highest rated news channel concerning trustworthiness is a foreign one speaks about the state of mainstream media in the US.

Accuracy of Major Cable News

13. Americans believe that 62% of all news they see on television, read in the newspaper, or hear on the radio is biased.

(Knight Foundation)

One of the most important television viewership statistics is about the perceived bias of specific mediums. Certain cable news networks are largely seen as biased. According to recent data, average Americans believe that 62% of all news they see in traditional media sources (television, newspaper, or radio) is biased.

14. Americans believe that 80% of the news they see on social media is biased.

(Knight Foundation)

It has been discussed a lot that average Americans (especially millennials) prefer getting news from social media. There is also no point in denying that the average age of cable news viewers is significantly older than that of social media audiences. Still, average users consider 80% of all news sources on social media to be biased. In other words, traditional news sources (even though on pessimistic 62%) are still more trustworthy than their social media counterparts.

15. 44% of traditional news sources and 64% of news on social media are seen as inaccurate.

(Knight Foundation)

When it comes to cable news credibility, an average viewer believes that 44% of news is inaccurate. Still, they are deemed as more trustworthy than their social media counterparts that are deemed inaccurate 64% of the time. The greatest trouble lies in the fact that the majority of viewers don’t know a distinction between biased and inaccurate.

16. 8 out of 10 US adults are bothered by seeing biased information.

(Knight Foundation)

When it comes to the effect biased information has on the general viewership, it usually provokes resentment. According to some surveys, about eight in ten US adults are bothered by seeing biased information. An even higher number of them (nine out of ten) are bothered by false information; yet, this is somewhat harder to prove or pinpoint.

Cable News Viewership Statistics - Remote Controller

Political Affiliation and Mainstream Media Bias

17. Republicans tend to notice more bias on mainstream media (77% on average) than other political affiliations.

(Knight Foundation)

The standings of mainstream media ratings amongst the Republican-voting demographics are shaky at best. Republicans perceive bias on mainstream media in 77% of the cases. Compared to Democrats (44%) or even independents (67%), the perception of bias is significantly increased. This also affects their preference of news channels they believe are more objective.

18. Democrats believe social media news is biased in 74% of situations.

(Knight Foundation)

While Democrats trust mainstream media far more than their Republican counterparts, when it comes to social media news, both groups tend to be quite distrustful. As many as 74% of Democrats believe the news on social media is biased, and 83% of Republican voters think the same. 

19. 54% of people are bothered by biased news about people or groups they support.

(Knight Foundation)

According to a 2018 survey, about 54% of people are bothered by biased news about people or groups they support. Opposed to this, about 57% of people are bothered by biased news about people or groups they oppose. Still, there’s a major difference between bothered and angry. About 32% and 31% of people, respectively, are actually angered by these instances.

20. 62% of the MSNBC audience votes for Democrats.

(Public Opinion Strategies)

One of the most important cable news viewership trends in 2020 is that people choose their cable news network based on their political affiliation. When examining an average viewer’s political affiliation, it soon becomes clear that 62% of its viewers are Democrats, and only 17% of them are Republicans. With Fox News, on the other hand, things are quite the opposite, with 53% of Republicans and only 23% of Democrats.

21. 37% of MSNBC viewers identify as liberal.

(Public Opinion Strategies)

The general political stance is also a huge determiner in one’s preference for the cable news source. Namely, when further examining the MSNBC demographics, it comes to attention that 37% of all MSNBC viewers identify as liberal. This is in balance with 55% of Fox News viewers who identify as conservative. Stances and politics of the two major political parties in question make this split a logical one.

22. 18% of Fox News viewers and 17% of MSNBC viewers are independent.

(Public Opinion Strategies)

What about all those people who are in the middle? Well, they seem to be almost evenly split between these two fractions. Namely, 18% of Fox News viewers and 17% of MSNBC viewers are independent. A similar (even though more noticeable) split happens when it comes to political moderates. Namely, 30% of Fox News viewers identify as moderates and about 40% of MSNBC viewers do the same. The difference of 10% is not a minor one, but it isn’t alarming compared to the Republican–Democrat ratio.

How Much Do Americans Watch Television?

23. Daily time spent watching TV per capita in the US has fallen to 3.29 hours.

(Statista)

An average American watches TV 3.29 hours a day in 2020. While this number sounds quite substantial, the truth is that the average viewing time in 2014 was staggering 4.2 hours a day. This is almost a full hour of watching less than just six years ago. If statistics are accurate, this number should reach a new low of 3.22 by 2020. For a lot of networks, this is one of the most worrying cable news viewership trends in 2020.

 24. People over 50 watch TV seven minutes less than last year.

(MarketingCharts)

When it comes to the age group of people over 50, it is noted that, on average, they watch TV seven minutes less than last year. People over the age of 65 watch TV two minutes less than they did the previous year. While this decline isn’t indicative of anything, it can be seen as a turning point in a long-growing trend.

25. TV News has a monthly reach percentage of 61% among adults 21–37 years of age.

(Nielsen)

According to Nielsen cable news ratings, the reach of TV news among the demographic between 21–37 years of age is 61%. The number itself sounds even more impressive when you disregard the fact that the reach among the 38+ population is a whopping 90%. Comparatively, digital news reaches 88% of the adults between 21–37 years of age and 80% of the adults older than 38.

26. More than 57% of Americans have streaming service subscriptions.

(CNBC)

One of the main reasons for this drop of interest in cable television is the increased interest in streaming services. Namely, according to the latest surveys, 57% of Americans are subscribed to some streaming services. Of course, these services aren’t supposed to be mutually exclusive. About 36% of these viewers have both a streaming service and a cable (or a satellite) TV.

Conclusion

While it is certain that there’s a steady downward trend in television viewership in the world, TV is still a force to be reckoned with. Cable news viewership statistics are quite conclusive and speak volumes of the generation gap among different audiences. Alarmingly enough, this gap also seems to be a political one.

Older generations like Baby boomers are still staying true to this form of media and even younger generations (like Gen X) are staying true to it to a certain extent. As a means of entertainment, television is slowly getting pushed back by streaming services and social media, but it still has quite formidable numbers. Finally, general viewership seems to dread political bias so much that they prefer to find a news source that aligns with their own beliefs. 

FAQ

How many viewers does CNN have?

It is noted that CNN averages 1.538 million daily viewers. This figure is formidable and able to place CNN at the very top of the list. While networks like Fox register more total views than CNN among adults between 25–54 years of age, CNN can boast with more viewers (497k to Fox’s 422k).

What is the most watched news channel in the world?

When it comes to global viewership, CBS News was the most watched news channel in the world in 2019. It had an average of 7,140,000 viewers in 2019, which trumped NBC, ABC, and Fox that were its closest competitors. What’s worth keeping in mind, nonetheless, is the fact that out of all four, Fox is the only one noting a positive net change (+3%) and it has the largest viewership in the States.

What is the most watched news channel in America?

According to surveys taken in April 2020, Fox News is the most watched network in the United States, with about 3.68 million primetime viewers. These numbers were greatly inflated due to the 2020 pandemic, which had people more immersed in global happenings and at home during primetime. Still, this is not the only reason, as Fox News seems to be dominant on American soil for four years in a row.

When did cable TV become popular?

In the early 1950s, right after World War II, the trend of TV broadcasting started snowballing in the United States and Britain. Technical improvements made TV receivers more sophisticated and, even more importantly, universally available. In the 1960s, cable TV reached major cities and metro areas. The HBO, first pay-TV network, was launched in the 1970s, which represented a huge step in cable TV popularization.

What is the most credible news source?

According to the survey conducted among their regular viewers, the BBC, Fox News, and PBS were ranked as the most trusted. The most interesting phenomenon here is the fact that the BBC (which isn’t even American) was trusted the most by its US-based viewers. This is probably one of the most surprising cable news viewership statistics out there.

What percentage of Americans watch TV news?

When combining the results of local television news, cable television news, and national network television news, it turns out that 45% of all Americans watch TV news. Sure, the number is not evenly distributed across all age groups and demographics but the averages are still quite formidable.

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