For the 11th consecutive year, Fox News Channel has won the cable news network war. The News Corp-owned channel finished No. 1 in primetime total viewers this election year with an average of 2.071 million, according to Nielsen data released today, an 11% rise over 2011. However, all of the cable news networks were down in primetime viewership from the 2008 election. FNC pulled in an average of 2.1 million four years ago and MSNBC drew 920,000. In second place in 2008 with a primetime viewership of 1.3 million, CNN suffered the biggest drop four years later. In 2012, MSNBC, meanwhile, saw double-digit gains over last year in both viewers and the key adults 25-54 demographic. Behind several nights during the Presidential election in which it took the top spot over FNC, MSNBC was up 18% over last year in primetime viewership for an average of 913,000. CNN finished in third place for a third consecutive year, down 3% in viewership from 689,000 a year ago to 670,000. With almost 11.5 million viewers on October 22, Fox News hit an all-time network viewership high with coverage of the third debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. With The O’Reilly Factor on top in both viewers and the 25-54 demo, Fox News had the top 11 shows on cable news in overall viewership and eight of the top 10 in the demo.
In the 25-54 demo, Fox saw a slight 1% rise over 2011 with 431,000 viewers in primetime. For CNN, it was the reverse: The network, which former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker takes over in late January, was down 1% in the demo year-over-year, averaging 219,000 viewers in 2012. MSNBC was second in 25-54, rising 20% from last year to an average of 290,000 viewers.