The Top Most Watched Shows in Cable News: 2022 Edition

Compared to most other forms of programming except perhaps sports, news and cable news dominate the ratings. For the most part, people prefer to watch a lot of content on their own time, but the news is ephemeral and is helped by a regular format that standard television provides. If you get it, you get it and watch it. If you miss it, you might read a headline or two if it's important but otherwise, it is ignored for the news of the next day.

While there are plenty of channels on TV, in truth there are only about three channels that dominate the ratings in any form: Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. The three are in fierce competition, and any show at the top of the ratings will certainly be on one of these networks. Yet currently, there will be an obvious trend. Fox News is dominating. While in previous years we might see a small smattering of all the top networks, 14 out of the 15 programs on this list are on Fox News. We’ll go into this a little more later, but first, let’s talk about the most popular programs.

Here are the 15 most watched shows in cable news as of January 2022 (the most recent data as of the time of this writing):

1. The Five

Currently the most popular show on Fox News with an enviable 5 p.m. timeslot, The Five is a panel show that is more structured than even your usual program, featuring five hosts who each bring a topic to the table and lead the discussion. There is then one final wrap-up segment. They usually feature three regular hosts, with someone in a “liberal seat” and someone in a “conservative seat”. Most notably Jeanine Pirro has joined as a permanent member of the show, and there are Geraldo Rivera, Jessica Tarlov, and Harold Ford Jr. rotating in the liberal seat. The regular hosts are Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, and Jesse Watters. These are personalities viewers likely already see and like on TV, adding some familiarity.

The Five is a show that wants to provide more voices, more opinions, and more debates. There are It certainly fits in with the rest of Fox’s programming, but with The Five Fox News has found a formula and they aren’t about to let go. It has been around in some form since 2011, and we don’t think it is going anywhere, either from the network or from its timeslot.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 3,573,000

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight

One of the most popular people in cable news, especially over the last few years, has been Tucker Carlson. Taking up the mantle of the conservative commentators before him, he is often considered one of the key voices of the right. Therefore, it only stands to reason that he would be popular and his show would be well-watched.

It should be noted that Tucker Carlson is a bit of a controversial figure for various reasons. In some ways, this increases his viewership and makes many of his viewers more loyal, but there is the fear (or hope) among many that he’ll go too far and go the way of some of the other controversial figures before him.

Another interesting trend is that Tucker Carlson has been something of a rising star. While his numbers in previous years were nothing to sneeze at relative to other cable news shows, he has been climbing the rungs of the ladder to become the most popular single personality, occasionally trading places with Sean Hannity. He has been a presence for some time though, going back on the CNN show Crossfire and being a guest on many Fox News programs over the years. Now that he has the popular 8 p.m. timeslot, we wonder where he will take his audience next.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 3,414,000

3. Hannity

Along with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity is one of the major conservative voices and most popular ones on Fox News, with him and Tucker Carlson competing closely for the top spot (it would likely come down to the timeslot and a few outside factors if nothing else). Hannity’s ratings have been relatively consistent throughout his run, and we don’t see that changing in 2022 barring a major event or controversy. After more than a decade, he has a loyal viewership.

The show has a bit of an interesting history, including Alan Colmes on its inception in 2008. However, once Colmes left the show in 2009, Hannity took over as the sole host and star. And since Hannity has consistently been one of the most popular shows on the network, Fox News is unlikely to change the formula unless Sean Hannity wants it to.

In some ways, Sean Hannity like Tucker Carlson is something of a controversial figure to many. Over the years he’s attracted his share of supporters and detractors, and his conservative opinions are not going to change anytime soon. Whether people want legal analysis, a political breakdown, or simple commentary on the news, Hannity is where people turn.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 2,872,000

4. Special Report with Bret Baier

Special Report with Bret Baier features Bret Baier as the host of the program since 2009 (Brit Hume hosted Special Report from its inception in 1998 to 2008), and the show features more political stories than the rest of the news cycle and most of Fox News’ programming. Baier provides a deeper political analysis of the events in Washington and the events of the day and has been popular with viewers for decades for that reason. With a touch of humor and a deeper look, Baier has command of his program and his roundtable.

Bret Baier has also accumulated a reputation for asking the tough questions of his fellow journalists and anchors, pointing out inconsistencies in their coverage. He may or may not have time to look into things more deeply, but even pointing out those problems for the viewer is more than many programs will bother doing. It is on every weekday at 6 p.m. ET, providing a level of consistency that viewers appreciate. All you need to look at are the viewership numbers.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 2,616,000

5. Fox News Primetime

Fox News, while known for its many opinion programs and its conservative bent, does like to bring in a range of voices. Fox News Primetime is perhaps the easy vehicle for the channel to do so. It is a show that brings in a series of rotating hosts to discuss the issues of the day. Another opinion program, it continues and preempts the discussions happening on other Fox News programs.

The coverage is much like you would expect from other news shows of the same type, and there are plenty of opinionated discussions and monologues on the program. The ratings remain rather high despite the rotating hosts (perhaps due to the prime timeslot), leaving some to wonder whether there will ever be a permanent host in the timeslot. For the moment, though, the format seems to be working. However, just recently it was released that Jesse Watters would permanently be taking over the timeslot. We don’t have the numbers yet on this new Primetime, but eyes will both be on the screen and Watters as he takes on this new role.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 2,385,000

6. The Ingraham Angle

Laura Ingraham is another major player on Fox News when it comes to commentators who have become popular enough to get and maintain their own show. Before The Ingraham Angle, she had been a frequent contributor to other programs, as well as a notable person and commentator on the country’s events. On the show itself, Ingraham will speak on the day’s events as well as frequently have on guests. She frequently takes on controversies, and rarely are the broadcasts boring or uneventful.

Compared to its ranking this time last year The Ingraham Angle is down a few spaces, but its viewership is on par with the decline of cable TV in general (with many people preferring to watch content online). We suspect in the context of the network that Ingraham will be welcome on the network for years to come, and that millions of people will keep tuning in. If she was able to survive the boycotts of 2018 as a result of comments she made over a school shooting, she should be able to survive a lot more (if not with all her advertisers). Regardless, she has millions of viewers every broadcast, and people hear what she has to say.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 2,225,000

7. Rachel Maddow Show

The top show for MSNBC and one of the few that can break into the top 15 outside of Fox News shows, the Rachel Maddow Show is a staple for viewers who want a more left-leaning news commentary programming, featuring Maddow’s takes on the day’s events, both in the realms of general news and the political sphere. Following the format of many of these shows, the show since 2008 has been a hit and only grew in prominence as one of the main shows criticizing Donald Trump after his election. This has led to a bit of controversy for Maddow, but ultimately ratings seem unaffected.

It certainly is to the left of its Fox News competitors and serves as an alternative to those who do not wish to watch Fox News at all. Given the political gap in the country, there certainly is a market for it. 

Occasionally Maddow might go on break, which will lower ratings significantly. More recently, Maddow might be going on a break from a daily program to work on other projects. She’ll still be appearing on a weekly program, but the details are uncertain at this time.

Channel: MSNBC

Viewership: 2,014,000

8. Gutfeld!

Gutfeld! is an interesting outlier on this list, as it is in many ways hardly even a cable news show as we know it. It is something more of a combination of a news show and a late night show, involving Gutfeld talking to guests, having monologues about current events, and making jokes. He certainly has his detractors (this is a trend for Fox News hosts) and sometimes the people on the other side of his jokes bite back. Nonetheless, he has built a reputation for fun, biting commentary, and has cornered a market that has been waiting for a leader for a long time. With nearly two million viewers despite a late night timeslot, Gutfeld! is clearly doing something right.

In fact, Gutfeld! has actually been one of the top performers for Fox News recently, gaining traction over the other mainstay late night shows. It is even surpassing the late night shows on the major broadcast channels, something that would seem impossible in years past. We will see how Gutfeld! does in the coming year, and whether there will be other programs that follow in its footsteps.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,906,000

9. Outnumbered

Another show with something of an interesting format for a cable news program is Outnumbered. It might seem a little silly at times, but it features a single male guest on the show with four female panelists. The male guest is deemed the “one lucky guy” and all panelists discuss and debate the news of the day. Outside of the panel makeup, it is generally the same as many other news panel programs on cable.

Within the last year, Outnumbered has added Emily Compagno and Kayleigh McEnany to the permanent lineup of hosts, keeping things fresh for the show and viewers.

The viewers often like it for showing just a few different perspectives while being a bit more entertaining for a news program. While many programs are going along this route, and one might think that viewers might get old of such a format, Outnumbered has stayed on the air for some time now, and does well in its 12 p.m. ET timeslot.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,807,000

10. America’s Newsroom

Taking up a large chunk of the morning block is Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, which is a mainstay on the channel in one form or another. Having been around since 2007 and changing anchors as needed, the current hosts are Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino, moving Hemmer back to the program that debuted with him as a host.

Given how the news cycle changes, America’s Newsroom can look quite different in format from one day to the next. Sometimes a single story simply dominates the news cycle and the public consciousness. Other times you might see a smattering of smaller stories on America’s Newsroom. Whatever the case, viewers trust the program to give them the truth and to provide them with the most important stories of the day.

There are discussion panels on the program, though they do not necessarily get as heated or controversial as one might find on the other programs on this list. Given the need for a hard news program on the channel, America’s Newsroom will be a mainstay on Fox News in some form for a while.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,765,000

11. The Faulkner Focus

The hosts on Outnumbered do not necessarily limit themselves to one program, as most hosts on news networks do not. And The Faulkner Focus is the vehicle for Harris Faulker. You can see from both the numbers and the program that she has become one of the leaders of daytime programming, bringing more opinionated content to the format. 

As for the show itself, it functions as a normal talk show focused on current events and news. However, Faulkner brings a lot more energy to the proceedings, and she dominates the 11 a.m. timeslot because of it. Winning multiple awards in the past, Harris Faulkner is going to be one to watch moving forward as we see how audiences take her takes in 2022.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,719,000

12. The Story

The Story is something of a different program on Fox News, focusing on a topic and giving a more detailed account than one or two segments on one of the other programs. Originally meant to be a more limited series showcasing the transition to the Trump administration and its first few months, the show proved popular enough to continue. Currently hosted by Martha MacCallum, the show has broadened a little bit in its topics, though will often dig deeper than its contemporaries. It is an interesting premise, if not the first show of its kind, and its fans continue to tune in every day at 3 p.m.

Having run since 2017, the show has clearly outlived its original purpose, but 2022 plans to be an interesting year. Will The Story keep its viewership? How will it adapt to the news cycle in a fast-paced world? That is for interested parties to find out.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,612,000

13. Your World with Neil Cavuto

Your World with Neil Cavuto is one of the top shows when it comes to financial news, and people have trusted the program for years when it comes to their retirement, learning more about the economy, and understanding the news from that context. Airing when the markets close at 4 p.m., Your World with Neil Cavuto is a focus that most people otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.

Neil Cavuto also might be one of the most qualified people at Fox News to head the show. He is the vice president of business news at the channel and has been guiding the channel when it comes to these affairs for years. He keeps himself informed so he can keep his viewers informed, who trust him for that.

Overall, in the rankings Your World with Neil Cavuto is not doing as well as last year, experiencing a notable drop in viewership compared to other cable news programs. Nonetheless, Your World remains a popular program, and it has remained fundamentally the same show it has always been. When the economy experiences a major change, we expect ratings to rise.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,547,000

14. America Reports

America Reports is a news program airing in the afternoon on Fox News, and a two-hour program that follows stories not only that occurred that day, but often as they are developing. It is one of the few hard news programs on the channel, at least relative to their more personality-driven content, and commands a respectable audience for their timeslot. In many regards, they are not all that distinguishable from the other news programs, but under their reporting and their channel, they take the lead from competing programs.

America Reports has been around in some form since 2022 and is currently hosted by Sandra Smith and John Roberts. It is faster than many other shows on Fox News and cable, trying to cover as much as possible for people with busy schedules. Yet when breaking news drops, America Reports is the first show that many people turn to. It is the perfect example of modern news reporting, for better or worse.

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,513,000

15. Fox and Friends

Another group commentary show on Fox News, Fox and Friends is the first live show of the day for the channel and one of their most long-running programs (starting in 1998). It is comparatively more of a morning show and a bit sillier than many of the other programs you’ll find on the channel, but you can also find quite a bit of political commentary on the program. It remains a news program and will not shy away from the current topics.

Compared to last year Fox and Friends has been on the rise in the rankings, despite being a morning program that traditionally doesn’t see as many viewers (given everyone is at work or getting ready for it). The show also runs on both weekdays and weekends, with a different hosting cast. Running either 180 or 240 minutes, the show also runs long and is part of many people’s routines. It has been rising in the ratings a little bit recently, though due to its timeslot might not jump into the top ten anytime soon. 

Channel: Fox News

Viewership: 1,329,000

Notable Trends

Looking at the rankings and numbers above and comparing them to previous years, here are a few things we’ve noticed that you should note:

  • There are, of course, other cable news networks outside of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. There are more niche business channels such as CNBC and Fox Business Network. Then there are more politically oriented channels such as Newsmax. Looking at their performance, there aren’t any shows that break the top rankings, and overall their viewership is somewhat limited.
  • Note that while we provided the most recent data we can find, ratings can shift rapidly depending on the news cycle, public sentiment towards certain issues, and more. 
  • On occasion news hosts, commentators, and anchors will switch networks, take a vacation, or be absent for a variety of reasons. This could temporarily affect ratings drastically. As you might be able to tell from the selections above, much of cable news is personality-driven. In fact, it is so personality-driven that nearly every show takes the format and the marketing revolves around the personality. They are mostly talking about the same subjects and the daily news cycle doesn’t change, but people want to hear who they want to hear.
  • The data above generally excludes special reports or breaking news that could interrupt normal programming. Given that the frequency of such events is unknown and that they are often important, viewership for them can hardly be considered relevant to the above ratings.
  • Compared to previous years, overall ratings and viewership are down, much like all of television. And compared to ratings from January of 2021, when an insurrection at the capital dominated the news cycle, cable news has taken a major hit. This is less the fault of anyone at the news networks and more a natural effect of the news cycle.
  • Given the amount of controversy and misinformation that has occurred lately, there has no doubt been some level of skepticism when it comes to the media, cable news, and journalism in general. That might be reflected in many of the ratings above.

A Few Final Notes

Here are a few last points on our methods:

  • We would like to note that in this article we are mostly refraining from the quality or the content shown on most of these programs, given how divisive they can be. We are mostly focusing on the popularity of these programs, and what that means for the networks and audiences. These shows are often driven by political opinions, and that means that quality will often be subjective to the viewers. One of the only ways to tell if a program is succeeding in its messaging is to determine whether there is a consistent audience.
  • Given how quickly things change, the exact rankings when you read this article may be different from when this was written. Based on historical trends the top 15 to 20 programs will change and shift around, often many times in one year. They will mostly stay the same, however, unless one program goes off the air or a new one (likely with a well-known host) takes the cable news world by storm. 
  • We decided early on to focus on the total number of viewers as opposed to competitive ratings and viewership shares. Most eyeballs on screens are the best determiners of influence we could find as well as the greatest metric of success. We aren’t concerned about ad revenue or some other things of that nature, but we are interested in influence.

Conclusion

Cable news influences so much of the discourse of the United States and beyond that it’s vital that we know which programs are on top. These hosts are some of the most influential people in the country, whether we like it or not, and there is a lot we can learn from understanding why they are popular and the ebbs and flows in the ratings. There is a whole apparatus behind every news network, and though we cannot go into every detail, we hope you have a better understanding of the subject. Similarly, we hope that you are better able to determine the programs that are shaping public opinion and why they are so successful. 


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