Fox News falls in ratings to MSNBC for first time in nearly two decades

For the first time in 17 years, Fox took second place in ratings last week.

MSNBC overtook the long-time king of cable, Fox, in ratings the week before Christmas — and they didn’t hesitate to brag about the news in a press release on Wednesday, boasting that it “dominated” the ratings.

But their victory will likely be short-lived. Fox’s biggest ratings draw, Sean Hannity, was on vacation that week, which may explain the ratings fall, and Fox ended up on top when the weekend was factored in.

MSNBC overtakes Fox after 17 years

MSNBC eclipsed Fox in the coveted 25-to-54 demographic and in total viewers for the week of Dec. 17-Dec. 21.

The liberal network led the pack in the week’s overall sales day ratings from 6 a.m. to 2. a.m. with an average 1,558,000 viewers. It’s the first time MSNBC has beaten Fox in the category since November 2000, when Bill Clinton was president and George W. Bush had just been elected.

Fox averaged 1,541,000 and CNN averaged 975,000 in sales day ratings for the week. Coverage during the week was dominated by news of a partial government shutdown and fight over border wall funding, as well as the resignation of President Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis.

MSNBC also overtook Fox in the 25-to-54 demographic for the first time since 2001, netting an average 269,000 viewers in the demographic compared to Fox’s 259,000 and CNN’s 268,000.

Fox did beat MSNBC when the weekend was averaged in, netting an average 1.23 million viewers from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, while MSNBC earned 1.16 million.

Maddow wins the week

MSNBC also came out on top in prime-time specifically for the fourth consecutive week in total viewers and the A25-54 demographic. They averaged 2,578,000 total viewers, leading Fox’s 2,240,000 and CNN’s 1,398,000.

In the 25-to-54 demographic, MSNBC had 471,000 viewers A25-54, leading Fox’s 355,000 and CNN’s 415,000.

MSNBC’s flagship program, Rachel Maddow Tonight, was also the most watched in cable last week in total viewers and in the 25-to-54 demographic. Maddow picked up an average of 3,213,000 total viewers versus Fox’s 2,313,000 viewers.

But Fox’s biggest ratings draw, Sean Hannity was off all last week on vacation. Hannity’s absence likely hurt Fox’s numbers, but his ratings began to slump earlier in December, while Maddow and CNN’s Chris Chris Cuomo gained viewers overall and in the 25-to-54 demographic.

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It is not unusual for MSNBC to lead CNN, but Fox ordinarily dominates cable ratings. In October, Hannity netted an average 3.340 million viewers to become the top host for the third quarter as Fox network averaged more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.

Hannity is still the most-watched cable host for two years in a row, and Fox will hold on to its status as the most-watched cable network for three years running.

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