Fox News Channel came into 2022 having either smashed records or hit one milestone after another across its business last year, especially on the ratings front. On the latter score, in fact, year-end data shows that there was one more achievement of note that might have gotten a bit overshadowed by other aspects of Fox’s operation: Fox’s roundtable panel show The Five actually closed out the fourth quarter of 2021 as the highest-rated cable news show for that three-month stretch.
According to year-end numbers from Nielsen, The Five — which airs starting at 5 pm ET — delivered 3,296,000 total viewers (“outpacing every hour across cable news,” per Fox). That also marks the first time that a non-primetime program won the quarter on the basis of total viewers.
Nielsen data shows that the top five highest-rated shows for the fourth quarter of 2021 were all Fox properties: The Five (3.296 million viewers), Tucker Carlson Tonight (3.290 million viewers), Hannity (2.89 million viewers) Special Report with Brett Baier (2.479 million viewers), and The Ingraham Angle (2.327 million viewers).
The first non-Fox program on the list, behind Fox News Primetime, was MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show coming in at #7 (with just over 2 million viewers).
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In terms of viewership among the age 25-54 demographic — the key group that advertisers most value — the top two shows flip-flopped. Tucker Carlson Tonight was on top there, with 542,000 viewers, compared to 481,000 for The Five.
The latter is built around a somewhat free-flowing discussion about the events of the day, with five Fox News personalities participating. Two of that five are rotating seats, while the core of the show is built around Fox’s Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, and Jesse Watters. Speaking of Watters, during a Monday segment on The Five he at one point remarked that “disarray on the left” is good for the network’s ratings.
“I want to see (Biden) primaried by rich liberals, crazy liberals,” Watters added. “So much so that they can hit the threshold to pop the debate, so he has to argue with communists about whether they’re going to fund solar-paneled slavery reparations.”
In terms of other highlights from the fourth quarter: Overall, no CNN shows broke the 1 million viewer mark for the period. A CNN representative told me earlier this year that it’s not uncommon for a ratings decline to follow a big election year. But 2021 wasn’t just coming off a bitterly contested presidential election — there was also the flood of news coverage stemming from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd, for example.
Meanwhile, CNN’s parent company did announce earlier this year that the network’s coverage on Jan. 6 of the Capitol rioting garnered the highest viewership total in the network’s history.
CNN, according to Nielsen data, drew 5.221 million viewers in total-day ratings on Jan. 6, followed by MSNBC with just over 4 million. Fox News drew just shy of 3 million. To mark one year since the events of that day, CNN is planning dedicated coverage this Thursday — “Live From the Capitol: January 6, One Year Later” will be hosted by Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper.
As for Fox News Channel, The Five’s record-setting quarter capped a 25th anniversary year for the network that also saw Fox overall achieve its sixth consecutive year of cable news ratings dominance.
Other highlights for the year included high-profile launches, such as those for Fox Weather as well as Greg Gutfeld’s new late-night comedy show that debuted to strong ratings; data from the network that shows its audiences are more engaged than ever (and more ideologically diverse than a lot of people realize); and growth at services like Fox Nation, the streamer which Fox said grew 40% in 2021 and boasts an estimated 1 million users, per one analyst estimate.