Cable viewers voted Fox News Channel the most-watched cable network in primetime during the month of October, due mostly to its coverage of the presidential debates.
Fox News averaged 3.4 million viewers during the period of Oct. 1-28 — an 85% increase over the same period last year — to top all cable networks, according to Nielsen. ESPN tackled second place on the strength of its NFL Monday Night Football telecasts, generating 3.1 million viewers, up 1% from October 2011.
October viewership for TBS, home of much of the Major League Baseball postseason, was down 6% from last year, but still good enough to finish third among all cable networks with 2.7 million viewers, followed by USA Network and Disney Channel. Both USA and Disney drew 2.3 million viewers and posted double-digit declines of 16% and 14%, respectively.
MSNBC sustained a whopping 108% yearto- year audience gain to 1.4 million viewers to finish eighth, directly behind History (1.5 million viewers, down 8%) and FX (1.4 million, down 14%). A&E (1.4 million viewers, up 2%) and TNT (1.4 million, up 11%) rounded out the top 10.
Nickelodeon regained its hold on the monthly total-day crown after abdicating it to Disney Channel last month. Nick, however, still posted a 10% decline, averaging 1.6 million viewers. Fox News finished second with 1.5 million viewers, up 50% compared to last year, followed by Disney Channel (1.5 million, down 7%), Adult Swim (1.2 million, down 3%); and ESPN (1.2 million, down 4%).
Cable news and sports networks enjoyed the biggest year-to-year gains during the month of April. League-owned channels NFL Network — in its first year of offering live National Football League games each week on Thursday nights — drew an incredible 501% viewership gain in October, while NBA TV’s preseason coverage helped the network dunk a 231% year to year viewership gain, according to Nielsen. Fox’s UFC-infused Fuel network also posted a 150% gain during the month.
NEWS ON RISE
Buoyed by the last month of the presidential campaign, news networks posted significant audience gains as well, including MSNBC (108%), Fox News (85%), Fox Business Network (76%) and CNN (63%) during the month. Other networks, such as Bio Channel (56% gain), H2 and Velocity (up 52%) also enjoyed audience gains of 50% or more.
Networks suffering through a scary month audience-wise include NBC Sports Network (down 62%); E! (down 43%); Speed (down 39%); Cloo and Golf Channel (down 33%); Fuse (down 31%); and Nick Jr., ESPN2, HLN and Fox Soccer (all down 30%).