Are there any empirical reasons why Fox News receives overwhelmingly high viewership as compared to other news organizations?


  1. TVNewser

  2. TheWrap

  • 12
    This is speculation, but do these figures take into account the amount of time spent watching a station? I've experienced a number of places playing rolling news stations non-stop. For instance, hotel lobbies, airports, journalists' offices. This seems to happen more in the US than my native UK. Lots of screens, lots of time. This may go some way to explaining why news channels, if not specifically Fox News are dominating the figures.
    – AJFaraday
    Jan 24 '19 at 11:15
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    @AJFaraday Ratings are determined by recruiting a sample population to install a tracking device in their television system. I do not believe that public monitors are included in that sampling - Nielsen refers to their numbers in terms of "households". jalopnik.com/how-tv-ratings-work-1795820157 Jan 26 '19 at 0:14
  • 4
    Various comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, write a real answer.
    – Philipp
    Jan 26 '19 at 9:27
  • 2
    I've voted to re-open this question. According to the consensus in this meta question, questions about media companies are on-topic. Jan 29 '19 at 21:46
  • 2
    I will just add after 7 months that those that voted to close this question are delusional if they think Fox News has nothing to do with "gov'ts, policies, and political processes." Jul 27 '19 at 6:29

Because there is only one Fox News and there are multiple competitors. Overall, CNN and MSNBC together are watched more than Fox (source). But they split the liberal viewership. So if they get 34% and 21% of overall viewership and Fox gets 45%, Fox is the most watched single network even as it is a minority of the overall market.

If someone started a serious competitor for Fox viewers, that could reduce Fox's share. Or if MSNBC went out of business, most of their watchers would probably go to CNN. But as it is, they split the liberal market while Fox has the conservative market to itself.

Some sources for the partisanship:

  • 19
    To put it in economic terms: they have a virtual monopoly on right-leaning national news. There is no corresponding left-leaning monopoly.
    – Michael W.
    Jan 24 '19 at 21:15
  • 17
    Would CNN and MSNBC really even be considered "left-leaning"? While I'm not a TV watcher, such news of theirs as makes its way to text seems rather middle of the road. I'd consider left-leaning to be something like the Huffington Post.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 25 '19 at 6:07
  • 22
    @jamesqf MSNBC is unquestionably left-leaning, and are often seen as the left-wing counterpart of Fox News. CNN is probably also left leaning, but not nearly as much. Jan 25 '19 at 6:24
  • 51
    @eyeballfrog only by the USA's concept of "left leaning". From an outside point of view, the US news spectrum seems to range from "extreme right wing" to "so far off the scale that we don't have any words to describe it".
    – alephzero
    Jan 25 '19 at 11:51
  • 13
    @godskook, to the extent that he has an identifiable position on the political spectrum, Sargon of Akkad is usually considered to be "right-wingnut" (strongly right-leaning with a fascination for conspiracy theories). His opinion on CNN isn't much use in determining CNN's political leanings.
    – Mark
    Jan 26 '19 at 1:40

Fox news viewers are quite elderly, average age of 68 as of 2017. Older people consume news and media primarily through their TV and newspapers. Younger people more through their PC and smartphones (source).

With younger people moving away from TV, that means a larger proportion of the TV watching audience will be elderly and elderly people tend to be more socially, politically and economically conservative (source).

So with a graying TV news audience, it's no surprise that conservative news media would proportionately do better than centrist or liberal news media. People seeking a more left wing perspective have abandoned mainstream TV news and tend to go to specific YouTube channels or news websites (Democracy Now, the Intercept, The Real News) rather than tune in at 9 o clock to hear what Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Clare McCaskill or John Kasich has to say.

  • 29
    How do they measure this? Because I know a lot of elderly people who just leave the television running all day. Does that count? If someone asked which channel news they watch, they'd say channel x, but they may not have even been in the room.
    – RedSonja
    Jan 24 '19 at 11:43
  • 8
    @RedSonja Nielsen utilizes Portable People Meters that detect subaudible tones that are included in station broadcasts, so it's entirely possible that "who is in the room watching" is taken into account. The original sources don't say whether they're using Nielsen ratings or not. Jan 24 '19 at 15:38
  • 31
    If, as noted by Brythan, CNN and MSNBC garner 55% to Fox's 45%, the argument of demographics does not hold water. That Fox has a near monopoly on conservative viewers while other networks split the liberal and centrist viewers aligns with the data much more so than a demographic perspective.
    – CramerTV
    Jan 24 '19 at 17:05
  • 4
    This answer may contain one of the causes, but Fox has been dominant way before the replacement of online news over TV for younger audience, and as such likely doesn't represent even a meaningful fraction of reasons.
    – user4012
    Jan 24 '19 at 23:44
  • 1
    Nitpick: "According to Nielsen Live +7-day data, in 2017 CNN’s median age was 60, while the median age of the Fox News and MSNBC viewer was 65." (source)
    – njuffa
    Jan 27 '19 at 17:36

A recent(ish) poll of American TV viewers conducted by Brand Keys showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed (representing those who watch a Network channel at least three times a week) rated Fox News as far and away their most trustworthy source of information out of the major American news networks.

It stands to reason that viewers would be less likely to watch news on networks that they rate as less trustworthy and more likely to watch news on networks that they consider more trustworthy. It may also be instructive to note that trustworthiness ratings seem to mirror actual viewer ratings.

Fox News was ranked the “most trusted” American TV news brand in the United States, and was second overall, behind only the British-based BBC, according to a new study.

The Research Intelligencer study, conducted via Brand Keys, analyzed 4,012 viewers who rated both broadcast and cable news organizations that they watch at least three times per week to determine how those brands resonated from a trust standpoint. Ninety percent of the viewers surveyed said they trusted the BCC, with 87 percent saying they trusted Fox News.

PBS finished third with 86 percent, followed by Bloomberg and MSNBC, to join BBC and Fox News among the five most trusted TV news brands, according to the study. The three major broadcast are listed next, with CBS’s 72 percent topping both NBC and ABC.

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  • 2
    @Geobits - Yah. Sorry. They watch any one network's news output at least three times per week. Presumably then there would be people who've answered more than once if they watch (for example) Fox and CNN. Either way, the main takeway is that Fox is a far more trusted brand than the other networks across a cross-section of those surveyed.
    – Valorum
    Jan 29 '19 at 13:47
  • 3
    Right, but it does change the interpretation a bit. The way it was originally worded made it seem like among people who watched a variety of channels on a regular basis (meaning they were exposed to a variety of viewpoints) trusted Fox the most, whereas now it's more of a "brand loyalty" kind of survey.
    – Geobits
    Jan 29 '19 at 15:27
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    @Geobits - The fact that even their own viewers don't trust their news coverage should be instructive :-) The fact that it aligns to viewing figures is also pretty telling. I've looked at some other polls going back to 2014 and Fox always rates very highly for general viewer trust; washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/19/… (for example)
    – Valorum
    Jan 29 '19 at 15:43
  • 2
    I'm not arguing which is actually better or more trustworthy, just outlining how the change in wording could change the interpretation. If I wanted to question that, I could just argue that Fox does a better job among those that can't tell the difference between a factual statement and an opinion. That would naturally lead to being more trusting in general IMO.
    – Geobits
    Jan 29 '19 at 16:07
  • 3
    Your answer asserts that people watch because they trust it more. Exploring why that is the case doesn't seem off-topic to me. It's true that Fox trends older, and that older people have a hard time distinguishing fact from opinion. If you tend to think that the opinions you're hearing are all facts, then I don't see how it wouldn't make you trust the speaker. It's only patronizing if I were to assert it applied to all Fox's viewers, but it doesn't have to for it to make a difference in the survey results seen here.
    – Geobits
    Jan 29 '19 at 16:30

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