Cable primetime network ratings dip for first time in months

After several of the strongest months in their collective history,
ratings for the major cable networks dipped in April compared to an unprecedented first quarter. But they remained strong last month compared to April 2016.

Ratings in April dipped for CNN and Fox News in prime time from 8-11 p.m. compared to last quarter, which was heralded by the networks as record-shattering.

Despite high-profile internal turmoil that rattled its leadership and lineup, Fox News posted the highest primetime ratings of the cable networks, garnering 2,441,000 average viewers, including 488,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, the coveted demographic for advertisers.

Fox said viewership is up in total 28% over last year in primetime, including a 42% year-over-year increase in the target demographic.

MSNBC saw a slight ratings boost in its primetime shows from last quarter’s averages. The network averaged 1,564,000 in total viewers between 8-11 p.m., including 359,000 viewers between 25 and 54 years old. The network is also up significantly from last April, posting an 82% increase in primetime viewers over last April.

Rachel Maddow’s show remained the biggest draw for the network’s primetime lineup. The left-leaning host’s show averaged 2.4 million total viewers last month, including 562,000 viewers in the 25-54 age demographic, higher than the 9 p.m. slot occupied by Fox host Tucker Carlson for part of the month and the new cast of “The Five” for the final week of April.

Though its morning and daytime lineups continue to best MSNBC in total and average viewers, CNN’s primetime lineup lagged behind both Fox and MSNBC. The network averaged 998,000 total viewers in primetime, about 200,000 fewer viewers than last quarter’s averages, and 357,000 in the key demo.

The numbers come amid a shakeup at Fox News, which saw the departure of ratings king Bill O’Reilly following allegations of sexual harassment.

Its new lineup posted strong initial numbers last week, but it remains unclear whether Carlson can match O’Reilly’s sky-high ratings in the 8 p.m. hour.

Any drama at Fox News didn’t affect its business network arm. Fox Business Network bested CNBC, once considered the undisputed business network leader, for the seventh consecutive month.

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