There is a new cable news ratings champion.
Nielsen data for 2022 rank the Fox News round table program “The Five” as the most watched show in cable news with an average of 3.5 million viewers.
The figure tops “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which averaged 3.3 million viewers for the year. The figure for the Fox News prime-time show is up 3% over 2021 when it was the most watched program for the year.
But “The Five” grew more, up 17% over 2021. The program, which airs live at 5 p.m. Eastern and 2 p.m. Pacific, is also the first cable news show outside of prime-time to finish the year on top.
The only non-sports cable program with a larger audience than “The Five” is Paramount Network’s hit drama “Yellowstone.”
“The Five” features conservatives Jesse Watters, Dana Perino, Jeanine Pirro and Greg Gutfeld along with a rotating chair shared by three liberal commentators, Jessica Tarlov, Harold Ford and Geraldo Rivera.
While it’s often a four-to-one pile on, “The Five” bills itself as the only forum on cable news where personalities with opposing views are seen debating issues on a regular basis. The program, which launched in 2011, has succeeded in attracting viewers who politically identify as Democratic or independent.
Cable news audiences have become more tribal in recent years, with conservatives flocking to Fox News while liberals camp out at MSNBC.
CNN has tried to strike more of a balance with an effort to book more Republican officials on its programs, as executives at parent firm Warner Bros. Discovery believe the network was pulled too far left during Donald Trump’s years in the White House.
Carlson, the most provocative and controversial conservative commentator on Fox News, remains a top attraction for viewers aged 25 to 54, the demographic most favored by advertisers who buy spots on news programming. Many of those advertisers steer clear of Carlson show, as his inflammatory remarks on immigration and other issues have led to threats of consumer boycotts.
But the popularity of Carlson, along with the rest of the network, likely keeps Fox News viewers from cutting the pay-TV chord. Fox News, like CNN and MSNBC, cannot be watched live without a TV subscription and gets more of its revenue from cable and satellite operators than advertisers.
Overall, Fox News was the most watched cable news network for 21st consecutive year with an average of 1.49 million viewers, a 12% gain compared to 2021. It’s likely that viewers who took a break from the channel in early 2021 after the 2020 presidential election have come back.
Fox News — which is facing a potentially damaging defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems over false claims made during the channel’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election — may be weathering a similar situation as the network did see year-to-year declines in the last two months of 2022.
Some of its audience may be depressed over the midterm elections where the Republicans failed to take the Senate and only narrowly won a majority in the House of Representatives, despite predictions of a “red wave.”
The network also saw a dip after 2018 midterms when the Republicans lost the House to the Democrats. But Fox News has managed to bounce back from such slumps.
CNN and MSNBC experienced significant year-to-year declines in 2022. MSNBC averaged 733,000, down 19% from 2021. CNN averaged 568,000 viewers, down 27%.
Both networks saw major drops in the first half of the year as they suffered from comparisons to the high levels of 2021 generated by coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol and President Biden’s inauguration.
MSNBC bounced back in the second half of the year as it became the preferred destination for viewers of the Jan. 6 hearings and beat CNN for the first time with its election coverage. The network was up 6% in the third quarter compared to a year ago and 13% in the fourth quarter.
CNN also stemmed its yearlong decline in the fourth quarter, seeing its audience level rise by 9%.
The network lost its most watched prime-time personality, Chris Cuomo, who was fired in December 2021 over his involvement in advising his brother Andrew, who resigned as New York governor after facing sexual harassment allegations.
CNN has yet to name a permanent host for Cuomo’s former time period. Cuomo has since joined Nexstar Media Group’s cable network NewsNation.
For the year, CNN’s prime-time audience was down 33% to 730,000 viewers. Fox News was off 1% to 2.3 million viewers while MSNBC’s block was off 21% to 1.2 million viewers. In the 25-to-54 demographic, Fox News led with 346,000 viewers, down 7%, followed by CNN’s 174,000, down 36% and MSNBC’s 133,000, a 39% decline.