A day juggling reports from the site of the ISIS Brussels bombings and the 2016 presidential cycle’s Western Tuesday created bigger than usual crowds for cable news networks. FNC swept primetime, but CNN pulled ahead and dominated later in the night, as primary results continued to trickle in. And MSNBC dayside (9 AM – 5 PM) drew its biggest non-Olympics audience since January of 2014.
FNC’s most-watched program of the night – cable TV’s too – was The O’Reilly Factor at 8 PM with 3.8M viewers (and 663K news-demo viewers). During the telecast, news was made when O’Reilly’s guest, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, suggested O’Reilly’s pal Donald Trump is “afraid to debate” and asked the show host, “Why don’t you ask Donald Trump to come here and defend himself? … I would love to do a one-on-one. You can moderate. He wouldn’t argue you’re an unfair moderator.” O’Reilly is pursuing.
Anyway, in that 8 PM slot, CNN clocked 1.5M viewers and 519K news demo viewers; MSNBC logged 982K viewers, with 236K in the news demo.
FNC clocked 3.6M primetime viewers, 732K in the news demo. CNN followed with 1.87M viewers and 651K in the news demo. MSNBC averaged 1.32M viewers and 336K demo viewers.
By the final hour of primetime, 10 PM, FNC’s Hannity logged 3.5M viewers and 833K news demo viewers. CNN had grown to 2.8M and 815K, and MSNBC had climbed to 1.6M and 437K.
From 10 PM-2 AM ET, as late Western Tuesday voting stats continued to trickle in, CNN took over in the news demo (709K), followed by FNC’s 595K and MSNBC’s 353K. FNC continued to control in total viewers: 2.3M viewers to CNN’s 1.9M and MSNBC’s 1.2M.
Much earlier in the day, MSNBC dayside saw higher growth than the competition Its 9 AM – 5 PM average was up , 290% versus March 2015 while CNN was up 138% and FOX was up 71%. In that block of time, FNC logged 1.9M viewers and 359 news demo viewers. CNN: 1.2M and 335K, and MSNBC 634K and 151K.