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When it comes to cable news, the network at the top of the mountain has almost always been Fox News, and the conservative-leaning empire has spent much of its 21-year existence celebrating victories over competitors like CNN and MSNBC. I shouldn't have to tell anyone that the past year or so has been a particularly important one for cable news, due to both the White House's latest POTUS and the slew of scandals rocking Fox News' foundation. And while it's unclear what the deal is here, Fox News' ratings appear to be taking a dive from those previous heights.
The past week has been a particularly interesting one, though the interest isn't such a positive one in Fox News' case. Both the usual ratings king and CNN fell behind MSNBC in both total viewers and in key demo ratings during the 8-11 p.m. hours for the entire week of May 15-19, and that's literally the first time that's ever happened. It wasn't exactly a statistical domination or anything, as MSNBC's 2.44 million average in primetime viewers squeaked past Fox News' 2.4 million average, with CNN taking up the rear with an average of 1.6 million viewers. As the saying goes, though, the journey of a thousand miles begins with securing the primetime news demo.
When it comes to that all-important advertising age group, Fox News fared a little worse. According to TV By the Numbers, MSNBC was averaging 611,000 viewers in the primetime slot, while CNN brought in 589,000, and both topped Fox News' 497,000. With both sets of stats, the arrow is more pointed at MSNBC for being a big winner here, rather than for Fox News being a loser, particularly since Fox is still on top both in overall May primetime and in all-day stats.
The reasons for the maybe-temporary viewer drop are plenty-fold, considering how many things Fox News has made waves with in the recent past, starting with the ousting of the late founder Roger Ailes over sexual harassment allegations. Then you get into all of the hosts that have left the network, either by their own choice or by getting a boot, with harassment claims cloaking most of those situations, as well, with Bill O'Reilly's exit the most noteworthy of them all. And while the numbers looked okay during the initial post-O'Reilly transition, perhaps there is more settling left to come.
So in the scheme of things, Fox News having these kinds of ratings problems is on the lower end of the same scale that's used when a show like The Walking Dead faces viewership droops. The cable news giant is still looking down upon a ton of other networks, since its numbers are more attractive than networks like CMT, HGTV, or even AMC. But even though a win is a win is a win, those networks aren't exactly Fox News' main competitors like MSNBC is.
Fox News likely isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so we'll be seeing it even if the numbers drop down more. If you're into scripted TV along with your daily news, check out our summer premiere schedule to see what's happening elsewhere on primetime in the coming months.