The most valuable audience in television is the 25-54 age group, and for the last four weeks, CNN has been on top with those numbers. They are still getting beat by Fox overall, but this is still a significant data point.
For the week of October 17-23, CNN attracted an average audience among adults aged 25-54 of 360,000 viewers in total day. The network also was #1 in the demo in primetime, bringing in an average audience of 813K viewers. And when looking at just Monday – Friday primetime, CNN was still on top, averaging just over a million viewers in the demo.
CNN leading in the demo for four straight weeks represents a major milestone for the cable news network. This is the first time in 15 years CNN has done this. The last time they led this many weeks in a row they were still the big dog in the cable news landscape. However, shortly afterwards, in January 2002, Fox News overtook the ratings lead and has held it ever since.
In the third quarter, CNN overall was behind even MSNBC, but ahead in that one key demographic. The 25-54 group is super important when it comes to this election because the vast majority of your independents are in this age range. Fox News has been incredibly pro-Trump. MSNBC is incredibly pro-Hillary. CNN has a definite lean, but it’s not outright cheerleading, which is far more attractive to independents.
Fox in particular has a problem here because Trump is a very, very toxic brand, and will be after this cycle is over. They could very well see continued negative response to their endorsement of someone like Trump. The Ailes scandal doesn’t help matters, and neither does their string of high-profile departures (if Trump TV is a thing, we could very easily see even more of those, too).
That Fox News has the largest share of the overall market shouldn’t surprise anyone. But that share of the market isn’t as valuable as the 25-54. If they want to stay on top, they had better figure out a way to win them back.