Complex Made Simple

US elections drives record ratings for cable news

CNN led all US TV networks in primetime coverage of the US elections with 13.3m viewers

Fox News came in second with 6.7m viewers

Among adults aged 25 to 54, the demographic most important to advertisers, CNN was first and Fox News second

The 2016 election cycle had been a ratings boon for US cable news networks, and Tuesday’s stunning US presidential election victory by Republican Donald Trump was no different. (More on the surprise victory here)

Time Warner Inc’s CNN led all US TV networks in primetime coverage with 13.3 million viewers, the most-watched Election Night coverage in US cable news history, according to Nielsen data. 21st Century Fox’s Fox News came in second with 12.1m viewers and Comcast Corp’s MSNBC was far behind with just under 6m.

Among adults aged 25 to 54, the demographic most important to advertisers who buy time on news programs, CNN was first as well with 6.7m viewers. Fox News was second with 4.6m and MSNBC drew 2.4m in the demographic. All three posted gains from four years ago.

(CNN Air launched, read here)

Close call

With many states too close to call, the race was not called for Trump until around 3am (0800 GMT) on the East Coast. Fox News led cable news with 9.8m viewers watching between 2am and 3am (0700 and 0800 GMT), with CNN bringing in 6.5m and 2.9m watching on MSNBC.

Fox News also led all cable networks with their full coverage from 7pm to 3am (0000 to 0800), with 12.2m, a network high for an election night. CNN pulled in 11.2m for the whole night, but topped Fox News in the news demographic with 5.6m to Fox News’ 4.8m. MSNBC brought up the rear with 5.2m and 2.1m in the demographic.

Numbers live

NBC, which led all the broadcast networks with just under 12m viewers, could leapfrog Fox News when Nielsen releases final viewership data for the broadcast networks later Wednesday.

Since live events such as Election Night coverage air outside the West Coast primetime viewing window from 8 to 11pm, those numbers are subject to higher-than-usual adjustments. In more preliminary broadcast data, ABC finished with 9.7m, CBS pulled in 8.8m and Fox ended with 4.2m. (more on US election night coverage here)

Nielsen will release the final tally of primetime coverage across all the US TV networks, which should top the 66.8m viewers who watched four years ago across 13 networks.