Skip to main content

Screen Wars Thought Leader Interviews are also available on

SpotifyApple PodcastGoogle Podcast
State of the Screens

Who Won Cable News?

By January 6, 2022February 3rd, 2022No Comments

Big news: Fox News started 2021 in 3rd place but finished #1 for the 6th year in a row.

Cable news networks by prime-time audience (YoY growth) according to Nielsen:
1) Fox News – 2.3M (↓ 36%)
2) MSNBC – 919K (↓ 58%)
3) CNN – 787K (↓ 56%)


Flashback #1: Breaking News Breaks Into Streaming

Mr. Screen’s Crystal Ball (from January 2021): In five years, we will look back on 2020 as the high watershed moment for cable TV news.

Why this matters: Of course, an election year like 2020 would set a new high.  It is important to keep in mind viewership is also down against 2019.
Cable news networks by prime-time audience for 2021 vs. 2019 (% change) according to Nielsen:
1) Fox News – 8%
2) CNN – 19%
3) MSNBC – 47%

Big question #1: How does Fox News consistently finish #1 with only Republicans watching?

Quick answer: Fox News (surprisingly) draws viewers from across the political spectrum.  More liberals watch Fox News than CNN.

Mentions of Trump during Oct-21 according to TVEyes:
1) MSNBC – 3,088
2) CNN – 2,275
3) Fox News – 1,761

Quote from Jack Shafer – Senior Media Writer @ Politico:
“A riled viewer is a devoted viewer.”

Big question #2: What does the video news business look like in 2030?

Quick answer: We believe the video news business will shift in some combination of the following four scenarios.

Scenario #1:Video news is consumed primarily live AND through a bundle.  New players (Newsmax, etc.) may emerge to fill niche gaps, but live sports and news create enough demand that new bundles (Apple, HBO Max, Xfinity Flex, etc.) provide an attractive offering.  The business model is a mix of subscription fees and advertising.

Scenario #2: Video news is consumed primarily  live through a direct-to-consumer (D2C) subscription (Fox Nation, CNN+, etc.).  The business model is a mix of subscription fees and advertising.

Scenario #3: Video news is consumed primarily live BUT WITHOUT a paid subscription (Tubi, Newsy, Cheddar, etc.).  The business model is primarily advertising.

Scenario #4: Video news is consumed on-demand primarily and distributed through social networks, apps, and email newsletters.  A great example is the amazing work from the team at The Recount.  The business model is primarily advertising.

Big question #3: What happens next?

Quick answer: CNN+ is launching in March for $6/month.

Flashback #2: Breaking News: CNN+ Streaming Soon

Quote from Mark Lukasiewicz – Dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication @ Hofstra University:
“I think this is as big a change for the video news business as the introduction of the cable news channels was — only it is happening much faster.  That was a slow tectonic shift from broadcast to cable, and while broadcast news obviously still exists, and while programs controlled by the news divisions — the morning shows in particular — still make a ton of money, the overwhelming emphasis for years now has been on cable news.”

Interesting: According to Roku, likely Trump supporters are spending more time streaming Newsmax (see scenario #1 above) than Fox News.


More #1: The Great Post-Trump Cable News Correction


More #2: Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV


More #3: Local TV Giants Are Coming for CNN’s Ad Dollars

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.