The cable news ratings for the first week of 2018 are in, and MSNBC beat competitors Fox News and CNN in the critical 25-54 demographic. Since Monday January 1 was a holiday, regular cable news channel programming resumed on Tuesday January 2. From Tuesday through Friday, MSNBC won three of the four weekday nights in the demo, and Fox News took three nights in the number of total viewers. Advertisers consider the demo metric to be the more critical one.
Interestingly, Fox News won both the demo and total viewers in prime time on opening night, Tuesday. After that, it lost the next three nights in the demo and Wednesday night in total viewers. On Wednesday morning (E.T.), the blockbuster story about Michael Wolff's forthcoming book, Fire and Fury, that takes aim at the Trump administration and President Trump in particular, first broke. When news that is unfavorable to President Trump leads, one theory holds that ratings of the anti-Trump Resistance channels, MSNBC and CNN, go up as more people who oppose Trump are attracted to watch the left-leaning channels. The ratings picture in the first week of January appears to add weight to that analysis.
On Wednesday, the audience in prime time for all three cable news channels was almost one million more than Tuesday before the news of the Wolff book went to the top of the news cycle. There were 360,000 more viewers in prime time on Thursday than Wednesday as the story of Wolff's book, which shot to #1 on Amazon, continued to command attention.
CABLE TV NEWS RATINGS January 2-5, 2018 (source: Nielsen Research via TVNewser):
1.0 = 1,000 viewers
examples: 516 = 516,000 viewers, 2,783 = 2,783,000 viewers
Tu Jan 2 FNC wins demo and total viewers
Prime time Demo: FNC: 516 | CNN: 353 | MSNBC: 450
Prime time Total Viewers: FNC: 2,783 | CNN: 910 | MSNBC: 2.043
Wed Jan 3 MSNBC wins demo and total viewers
Prime time Demo: FNC: 525 | CNN: 434 | MSNBC: 605
Prime time Total Viewers: FNC: 2,594 | CNN: 1,143 | MSNBC: 2,679
Thur Jan 4 MSNBC wins demo, FNC wins total viewers
Prime time Demo: FNC: 552 | CNN: 409 | MSNBC: 588
Prime time Total Viewers: FNC: 2,845 | CNN: 1,239 | MSNBC: 2,643
Fri Jan 5 MSNBC wins demo, FNC wins total viewers
Prime time Demo: FNC: 462 | CNN: 321 | MSNBC: 486
Prime time Total Viewers: FNC: 2,558 | CNN: 1,000 | MSNBC: 2,245