Multiple articles published on various online news sources have cited data by Nielsen Media Research to show that following the 2016 election, Fox News has seen a significant boost in viewership. The data shows that while Fox News has experienced a significant and sustained post-election increase in viewership, its primary competitors, MSNBC and CNN, have suffered a significant drop in viewership.
According to TruthFeed, in an article titled “CNN And MSNBC In Ratings Free Fall — Fox Soundly Beating Both Combined,” published on December 7, 2016, MSNBC and CNN cable news channel went into a “ratings free fall” after the general election because Trump supporters were boycotting the news channels as a way of punishing the networks for their anti-Trump reporting and biased news coverage during the election season.
TruthFeed cited a December 6, 2016 article by The Hill which, in turn, cited Nielsen Media Research data which show that since Election Day, Fox News has received an estimated average of 2.9 million viewers compared with CNN’s 960,00 and MSNBC’s 959,000 viewers.
According to The Hill, Fox News’ average prime time viewership has tripled CNN’s and MSNBC’s since the end of the election won by the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Fox News viewership has also outstripped the combined viewership of CNN and MSNBC. Citing the Nielsen Media Research data, The Hill noted that Fox News is the only network that has increased viewership since Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton at the 2016 general election.
Online fact-checker Snopes also noted that, according to Nielsen Media Research data, CNN and MSNBC have seen a ratings dip since after Donald Trump’s November 8, 2016 election victory. But the website argued there was no empirical evidence supporting TruthFeed’s conclusion that the dip was due primarily or partly to Trump supporters boycotting the cable networks.
Referring to a presentation of Nielsen data by the TVNewser, Snopes pointed out that although Fox News’ total viewership has grown since the election, while MSNBC and CNN have seen a dip, all three networks have suffered in drop among younger audiences for prime time hours.
But, according to Snopes, data shows that both MSNBC and CNN experienced relatively larger losses than Fox News.
Snopes argued that the post-election dip experienced by networks, especially among younger viewers, was expected. All three networks enjoyed significant ratings surge during and in the period leading to the 2016 election. CNN and MSNBC returned record-breaking viewership during the election period. With regard to viewership, 2016 was generally a record-breaking year for cable networks and other election news sources, as Nielsen Media Research data show.
However, Fox News, averaging 2.4 million viewers, outperformed the rival networks in 2016, and for the first time in its history, the cable network finished as the most-watched basic cable network in prime time and total day. Similarly, CNN saw a boost in ratings during 2016, with an average of 1.3 million viewers, the highest since 1995.
However, analysts had expected significant drops in post-election viewership, according to The Wrap. All networks experience a surge in viewership during general election seasons and post-election dip afterwards. The post-election dip in 2016 was more pronounced because the audience was so engrossed with viewing news programs in an exceptionally intense election cycle that “news fatigue” set in after the election, leading to a plunge in ratings.
“There’s massive news-watching fatigue,” Tom Nunan, a lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, said, according to The Wrap. “I really think people are going to take a break until the inauguration.”
The Hill reports that 21st Century CEO James Murdoch said the network was forging ahead after the resignation of its former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
“I don’t think it’s about a pivot from a political bias one way or another, it’s about attracting the best talent,” Murdoch said.
“The goal for anyone in the news business is to make sure that you’re presenting the news, breaking news, but also providing different perspectives, consistently putting the best product on the air and investing in that product and that’s something we’ll continue to do,” he added.
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