In the wake of the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, cable news viewership has seen significant shifts in the past two weeks. While CNN remains the least-watched cable news channel among the big three, it experienced the largest spike in viewership, with a 43% increase in total-day viewership between September 25 and October 9, according to Nielsen data. This surge brought CNN's average viewers across the course of a day from 446,000 to 639,000.
CNN's primetime viewership also saw a notable rise, reflecting a trend where the network tends to attract more viewers during breaking news coverage. Over a two-week period, CNN's primetime viewership increased by 40%, from 551,000 to 775,000 on average.
Fox News, which has been the most-watched cable news channel for the past three weeks, also experienced a rise in viewership. It saw a 31% increase in total-day viewership, averaging 1.5 million viewers last week. In primetime, Fox News witnessed a 3% increase, with an average of 2.2 million viewers.
On the other hand, MSNBC saw a significant decline in viewership during this period. The channel's primetime viewership dropped by 27%, from an average of 1.46 million viewers to 1 million. Total-day viewership also decreased by 18%, averaging 726,000 viewers.
It's worth noting that CNN and MSNBC have previously shown the ability to break through in moments of breaking news. For example, MSNBC had the most-watched show during former President Donald Trump's indictment in Georgia, while CNN achieved a rare ratings victory in May with a town hall featuring Trump. However, during the week of October 9 to 15, the most-watched cable programs were dominated by sporting events, with eight out of the top 10 spots going to sports coverage.
In recent news, MSNBC has faced criticism for its coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict. NewsNation's Dan Abrams accused the network of "victim blaming" and singled out one of its hosts, Ayman Mohyeldin, for suggesting that Hamas attacks were a result of Israel's policies. The director of the Anti-Defamation League also criticized MSNBC's coverage and urged the network to label Hamas fighters as terrorists. There have been reports that MSNBC removed three Muslim broadcasters from its coverage, but the network denied these claims, stating that lineup changes were coincidental. MSNBC affirmed its commitment to covering the conflict thoroughly.
As the situation in the Middle East continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how these cable news viewership trends will develop further.