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Trends and Facts on Cable News

Trends and Facts on Cable News

MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA

Cable TV is home to a set of television channels whose news broadcasts have become an important information source for many Americans. In 2020, a year that included both a global pandemic and a U.S. presidential election, both evening and daytime cable news audiences increased for the three major cable news channels (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC). Financially, these cable news channels have set themselves apart from other news media with their comparatively robust business model. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about cable news below.

Audience
According to Comscore TV Essentials® data, viewership increased for the three major cable news channels (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) in 2020. The average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the prime news time slot (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) increased by 61% for Fox News in 2020, to about 3.08 million compared with 1.92 million in 2019. Similarly, CNN’s audience increased from 1.05 million in 2019 to 1.80 million in 2020, a 72% increase. MSNBC’s audience jumped 28% in 2020, rising from 1.3 million in 2019 to 1.6 million in 2020.

Newsmax, a relatively smaller cable news channel that gained prominence during the 2020 election, had an average audience of 115,000 in 2020, the first year for which we have data.

For the daytime news time slot (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), all three of the major cable news channels saw marked increases in their average audience in 2020.

Average audience for cable TV news: Prime news

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2016
1,347,499
1,881,928
975,885

2017
989,398
1,465,800
1,077,559

2018
982,638
1,619,589
1,222,458

2019
1,051,061
1,919,173
1,251,094

2020
1,803,782
3,082,961
1,597,577

Pew Research Center

Year
Newsmax

2020
115,118

Pew Research Center

Average audience for cable TV news: Daytime news

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2016
700,662
1,146,520
529,723

2017
679,947
1,090,430
569,357

2018
664,434
1,100,619
672,817

2019
687,418
1,253,005
765,725

2020
1,193,975
1,758,964
1,051,594

Pew Research Center

Economics
Total revenue for the three major cable news channels increased modestly in 2020 (to $1.7 billion for CNN, $2.9 billion for Fox News and $1.1 billion for MSNBC), according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group in S&P Global Market Intelligence, with each seeing a 3%-5% increase in revenue. License (affiliate) fees, one of two main sources of revenue for the major cable channels, declined slightly in 2020 for all three – down roughly 1%-3% across all. Advertising revenue, these channels’ other main source of revenue, increased in 2020 for all three, with advertising revenue increasing anywhere from 9%-12%.

In 2020, Newsmax made $26 million in revenue, virtually all of which came from advertising (in 2020, the first year we have data available, Newsmax had zero license fee revenue).

Total revenue for cable TV

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2006
822,600,000
688,100,000
270,700,000

2007
881,300,000
825,800,000
301,400,000

2008
1,026,800,000
1,084,700,000
366,600,000

2009
1,001,800,000
1,282,400,000
357,300,000

2010
1,010,400,000
1,466,000,000
392,000,000

2011
1,080,500,000
1,624,100,000
449,300,000

2012
1,051,900,000
1,812,400,000
503,200,000

2013
1,071,200,000
1,922,500,000
503,700,000

2014
1,098,800,000
2,010,700,000
501,200,000

2015
1,143,200,000
2,209,100,000
510,600,000

2016
1,401,900,000
2,462,600,000
666,800,000

2017
1,558,100,000
2,674,600,000
798,600,000

2018
1,600,100,000
2,743,500,000
963,100,000

2019
1,624,900,000
2,817,300,000
1,003,700,000

2020
1,665,600,000
2,889,500,000
1,052,000,000

Pew Research Center

Year
Newsmax

2020
26,400,000

Pew Research Center

Advertising revenue for cable TV

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2012
327,700,000
742,300,000
244,400,000

2013
319,800,000
776,400,000
223,800,000

2014
324,900,000
774,200,000
212,600,000

2015
361,500,000
814,900,000
222,200,000

2016
538,800,000
926,900,000
351,400,000

2017
615,300,000
1,018,800,000
467,200,000

2018
595,600,000
1,024,200,000
572,100,000

2019
578,500,000
1,066,200,000
619,500,000

2020
628,300,000
1,189,900,000
676,800,000

Pew Research Center

Year
Newsmax

2020
25,000,000

Pew Research Center

License fee revenue for cable TV (Fox News, CNN and MSNBC)

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2012
675,600,000
1,051,300,000
245,100,000

2013
701,900,000
1,116,800,000
265,500,000

2014
723,300,000
1,198,500,000
273,600,000

2015
756,200,000
1,348,600,000
277,800,000

2016
837,000,000
1,483,200,000
304,200,000

2017
912,800,000
1,596,800,000
304,400,000

2018
973,800,000
1,654,600,000
342,400,000

2019
1,015,200,000
1,680,000,000
338,000,000

2020
1,005,400,000
1,621,400,000
326,300,000

Pew Research Center

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN all saw their profit increase in 2020, each growing roughly 6%-7% from the previous year. Newsmax lost $1.5 million in 2020, the first year for which we have data for this outlet.

Total profit for cable TV

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2006
256,300,000
215,600,000
84,200,000

2007
291,000,000
304,400,000
109,700,000

2008
409,900,000
502,600,000
148,100,000

2009
417,500,000
640,700,000
159,700,000

2010
395,300,000
779,900,000
167,500,000

2011
429,500,000
884,200,000
190,500,000

2012
374,700,000
1,006,200,000
235,900,000

2013
320,300,000
1,121,200,000
227,200,000

2014
293,700,000
1,178,700,000
181,900,000

2015
366,200,000
1,305,900,000
206,300,000

2016
565,500,000
1,481,600,000
309,700,000

2017
671,900,000
1,621,000,000
372,800,000

2018
675,100,000
1,643,600,000
428,900,000

2019
676,800,000
1,680,300,000
540,200,000

2020
714,700,000
1,795,500,000
575,300,000

Pew Research Center

Year
Newsmax

2020
-1,500,000

Pew Research Center

Newsroom investment
Total newsroom spending by the three major cable channels was fairly flat in 2020. CNN’s expenses remained largely unchanged in 2020, while Fox News saw its expenses decline 4% and MSNBC saw its expenses increase 3%. In 2020, Newsmax spent $28 million on newsroom expenditures, the first year data for this outlet was available.

Newsroom spending for cable TV

Year
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

2006
566,300,000
472,500,000
186,500,000

2007
590,300,000
521,400,000
191,700,000

2008
616,900,000
582,100,000
218,500,000

2009
584,300,000
641,700,000
197,500,000

2010
615,100,000
686,100,000
224,500,000

2011
651,000,000
739,900,000
258,800,000

2012
677,100,000
806,200,000
267,300,000

2013
751,000,000
801,300,000
276,600,000

2014
805,000,000
832,100,000
319,400,000

2015
777,100,000
903,200,000
304,300,000

2016
836,400,000
981,100,000
357,100,000

2017
886,200,000
1,053,600,000
425,800,000

2018
924,900,000
1,099,800,000
534,200,000

2019
948,100,000
1,136,900,000
463,500,000

2020
950,900,000
1,094,000,000
476,700,000

Pew Research Center

Year
Newsmax

2020
27,900,000

Pew Research Center

About 2,700 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers, and camera operators and editors in cable TV newsrooms in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. This is on par with 2017, when there were about 2,900 news employees.

Employment in cable TV newsrooms

 Year
Total

2004
2,950

2005
3,110

2006
2,700

2007
2,820

2008
2,830

2009
3,260

2010
2,590

2011
2,190

2012
2,150

2013
2,720

2014
2,210

2015
2,760

2016
2,560

2017
2,940

2018
2,690

2019
2,820

2020
2,730

Pew Research Center

Year
News analysts, reporters and journalists
Editors
Photographers
Television, video, and film camera operators and editors

2012
$58,270
$70,502
$53,368
$40,831

2013
$56,117
$67,692
$52,110
$48,137

2014
$54,603
$66,565
$52,096
$58,543

2015
$50,215
$71,334
$49,494

2016
$59,823
$73,921
$52,650

2017
$58,511
$66,969
$50,485

2018
$54,696
$63,839
$48,305
$50,902

2019

$62,592

$49,885

2020

$66,480
$42,850
$62,840

Note: The OEWS survey is designed to produce estimates by combining data collected over a three-year period. Median annual wage adjusted for inflation. Data unavailable for some years for some occupations.

Source: Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics data.

Pew Research Center

The median wage for editors was about $66,000 per year in 2020, followed by camera operators and editors at about $63,000 and photographers at about $43,000. Since 2018, wage data for reporters in the cable industry has not been available.

Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Research Analyst Mason Walker.and Research Assistant Naomi Forman-Katz.

Read the methodology.

Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Find more in-depth explorations of cable news by following the links below:

U.S. newsroom employment has fallen 26% since 2008, July 13, 2021
Broad agreement in U.S. – even among partisans – on which news outlets are part of the ‘mainstream media’, May 7, 2021
Cable and satellite TV use has dropped dramatically in the U.S. since 2015, March 17, 2021
Measuring News Consumption in a Digital Era, Dec. 8, 2020
Cable TV and COVID-19: How Americans perceive the outbreak and view media coverage differ by main news source, April 1, 2020

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