Fox News extends streak, sets cable news records in 2020

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FILE PHOTO: A man reads a headline at the Twenty-First Century Fox Inc headquarters in the Manhattan borough in New York

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ratings for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel topped all news and basic cable channels for a fifth straight year in 2020, according to Nielsen data released on Tuesday.

The network averaged 1.9 million viewers per day and 3.6 million in primetime – record levels for cable news channels – during a news-heavy year marked by the coronavirus pandemic, protests for racial justice and a contentious U.S. presidential election.

While Fox was ahead in key metrics when looking at the year as a whole, AT&T Inc’s CNN beat Fox in total day ratings for 41 straight days after the Nov. 3 presidential contest, CNN said on Dec. 16. The channel also recorded its most-watched year in its 40-year history, with an average of 1.1 million viewers per day and 1.8 million in primetime.

Fox angered President Donald Trump on election night by projecting that Democrat Joe Biden would win Arizona before other major news outlets called the state. Trump urged his supporters to check out smaller news channels including Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN).

Newsmax’s audience jumped after the election, though its overall audience remained much smaller than Fox’s reach. In November, Newsmax primetime ratings peaked at 495,000 on average, slipping to 391,000 in early December.

OAN pulled in its highest ratings ever in 2020, its president, Charles Herring, said via email, and viewership surged by more than 40% in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

Herring said the data was based on viewing on set-top boxes of a major pay TV provider in 70 markets, which showed OAN ranked as the No. 4 national news network with those viewers. OAN does not subscribe to Nielsen ratings and did not release precise viewership totals.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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