The Murdoch clan’s Fox News Channel has clearly established itself as America’s dominant linear TV business, with an industry-topping, record-breaking set of audience figures for its primetime 2020 election night coverage, as well as record earnings for the three months to September 30.
Fox News’ primetime coverage on Tuesday night (US time) averaged 13.7 million in total viewers and nearly 5 million in the 25-54 news demographic, giving it the highest-rated election night coverage, beating ABC, NBC, CBS and all cable news networks.
CNN was second with 9.1 million in total viewers, followed by MSNBC (7.3 million), ABC (6.1 million), NBC (5.6 million) and CBS (4.5 million). In fact the total audience for the three cable news channels (Fox, CNN and MSNBC) was significantly higher than the total audience for for free-to-air TV.
The 2020 results reflect an enormous swing since election night 2016. Back then, NBC was the most watched network with 12.1 million viewers, followed by Fox News with 11.5 million. Like their hero Donald Trump, who has won more votes this year than he did four years ago (on the back of record turnout), Fox News has boosted its audience by close to 20% compared.
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The ratings were released the same day that parent company Fox Corp released its September quarter financial results, which revealed a 2% rise in revenue to US$2.7 billion. Revenues rose thanks to higher fees from cable affiliates (up 4% to US$973 million), more than enough to offset the 7% fall in ad revenues.
Fox News was again the star, driving revenues in Fox’s cable business up by around 3% to US$1.325 billion for the quarter. Earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation, however, jumped by around 14% to US$781 million.
Net income for the company doubled to US$1.12 billion thanks to more cash payments from Disney resulting from tax issues arising from Fox’s deal to sell half the company to the entertainment juggernaut in early 2019.