Basic Cable Network 2017 Ratings Rankings: Who’s Up, Who’s Down

Fox News USA Hallmark Remote Control
Fox News/USA/Hallmark/Shutterstock

The year 2017 marked a time of shakeout in basic cable TV, after a turbulent 2016 in which reality TV stars Donald Trump ran madly into the White House, as viewers continued to seek networks that comforted/reflected them.

USA Network celebrated its 12th consecutive year as the top entertainment network in primetime total viewers, while also finishing first in the adults 18-49 demographic as well as among 18-34 year olds.

Fox News Channel marked its second consecutive year as the most watched basic cable network in primetime. The network held steady year to year in primetime audience overall, hanging onto its considerable Trump-election-cycle crowd. CNN slid slightly compared to the humdinger of an election year, when it had hosted many of those gobsmacking political debates. Meanwhile, MSNBC spiked a whopping 50% in 2017 to take the Most Improved Crown, though some credit is due to Trump and his administration for providing most of its best material.

Speaking of seeing comfort, Hallmark and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries continued to buck the industry-erosion trend in total viewers and the key demo, with lineups of high-concentrated comfort programming.

Also bucking the cable numbers trend was The Weather Channel, though for opposite reasons, as viewers tuned in for the latest info about devastating weather events including the hurricanes that pummeled Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas.

Here are the final rankings:

Basic Cable Rankings 2017
(Total Viewers in millions)

Rank network p2+ 2017 (l+7) p2+ 2016 (l+sd)
1 Fox News Channel 2.46M 2.48M
2 ESPN 2.06M 1.91M
3 MSNBC 1.66M 1.11M
4 USA Network 1.62M 1.68M
5 HGTV 1.51M 1.58M
6 TBS 1.45M 1.59M
7 Nickelodeon 1.36M N/A
8 Discovery 1.32M 1.40M
9 History 1.31M 1.33M
10 TNT 1.28M 1.55M
11 Hallmark Channel 1.22M 1.06M
12 Investigation Discovery 1.10M 0.994M
13 CNN 1.07M 1.30M
14 AMC 1.03M 1.26M
15 FX 0.997M 1.11M
16 A&E Network 0.983M 0.847M
17 Food Network 0.969M 1.06M
18 TLC 0.949M 0.877M
19 Bravo 0.885M 0.908M
20 Lifetime 0.810M 0.955M
21 Adult Swim 0.774M 0.991M
22 Freeform 0.765M 0.812M
23 TV Land 0.715M 0.620M
24 Hallmark Movies & Mysteries 0.709M 0.549M
25 Nick at Nite 0.688M 0.808M
26 VH1 0.637M 0.639M
27 Nick Jr. 0.623M 0.594M
27 Syfy 0.623M 0.692M
29 MTV 0.564M 0.580M
30 Animal Planet 0.551M 0.593M

Source: Nielsen; Live+7 numbers from 12/26/16-12/17/17; Live+SD numbers from 12/29/17-12/31/17

Basic Cable Rankings 2017
(Adults 18-49 demo in thousands)

Rank Film p 18-49 2017 (l+7) p 18-49 2016 (l+sd)
1 ESPN 848K 816K
2 USA Network 664K 692K
3 TBS 654K 729K
4 TNT 557K 625K
5 Discovery Channel 505K 575K
6 FX 477K 560K
7 AMC 474K 610K
8 Bravo 447K 469K
9 Adult Swim 443K 530K
10 HGTV 421K 476K
11 A&E Network 400K 390K
11 History 400K 417K
13 VH1 399K 396K
14 Food Network 385K 431K
15 Freeform 383K 408K
16 MTV 381K 373K
17 Nickelodeon 351K N/A
18 Investigation Discovery 349K 327K
19 TLC 346K 334K
20 Fox News Channel 323K 354K
21 Lifetime 321K 411K
22 CNN 297K 373K
23 Hallmark Channel 277K 251K
24 Comedy Central 274K 337K
25 MSNBC 267K 207K
26 Nick at Nite 261K 298K
27 Syfy 250K 280K
28 E! Entertainment 237K 290K
29 BET Network 228K 209K
30 TruTV 223K 223K

Source: Nielsen; Live+7 numbers from 12/26/16-12/17/17; Live+SD numbers from 12/29/17-12/31/17

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