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With captive audience, cable news has big ratings in April

NEW YORK — Tucker Carlson, Joe Scarborough, Chris Cuomo, Bret Baier, Nicolle Wallace and Anderson Cooper have more in common than you think — at least this month.

Each cable news host recorded their most-watched months ever in April, with coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders assuring a captive audience of people wanting to stay on top of the news.

Each of the networks noted ratings superlatives: Fox News' already dominant prime-time lineup had its best viewership ever in April, MSNBC's full-day schedule also had the largest audience in network history and CNN's all-day audience was its highest since September 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck, the Nielsen company said.

There were several individual markers, too. Baier's early-evening news report on Fox was the highest-rated in cable news for the first time, primarily because it often coincided with President Trump's daily briefing.

During a period he was largely confined to his basement because he had COVID-19, CNN's Cuomo toppled a giant, at least by one measurement, beating MSNBC's Rachel Maddow among younger viewers for the first time ever. And the record-setting month had to be satisfying for the “Morning Joe” crew, which has been blistered by Trump's Twitter feed.

CNN had the biggest growth among the networks, with its full-day viewership up 150 per cent over April 2019 and surpassing MSNBC for the first time in three years.

During weekday prime time, when cable news brings its stars out, Fox News averaged 4.14 million viewers in April, MSNBC had 2.47 million and CNN had 2.16 million, Nielsen said.

It's worth noting, however, that none of the cable stars exceeded the viewership that David Muir, Lester Holt and Norah O'Donnell get every night on the broadcast evening newscasts.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 10.2 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 9.6 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.7 million.

CBS won the week in prime time among the broadcast networks, averaging 5.7 million viewers. NBC had 4 million viewers, ABC had 3.6 million, Fox had 2.9 million, Univision had 1.4 million, ION Television had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1 million and the CW had 760,000.

Fox News Channel topped the cable networks in prime time, averaging 3.27 million viewers. Buoyed by the NFL draft, ESPN had 2.56 million. MSNBC had 1.93 million, CNN had 1.75 million and TLC had 1.37 million.

For the week of April 20-26, the top 20 prime-time programs, their networks and viewerships:

1. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.9 million.

2. “The Voice,” NBC, 9.18 million.

3. “Survivor,” CBS, 8.18 million.

4. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 8.14 million.

5. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 8.02 million.

6. NFL Draft, Round One, ESPN, 7.86 million.

7. “NCIS,” CBS, 7.74 million.

8. “Magnum, P.I.,” CBS, 7.2 million.

9. “911,” Fox, 6.84 million.

10. “Grammy Salute to Prince,” CBS, 6.49 million.

11. “God Friended Me” (Sunday, 8 p.m.), CBS, 6.31 million.

12. “MacGyver,” CBS, 6.19 million.

13. “God Friended Me” (Sunday, 9 p.m.), CBS, 6.1 million.

14. “American Idol,” ABC, 6.09 million.

15. “Man With a Plan,” CBS, 5.834 million.

16. “Seal Team,” CBS, 5.83 million.

17. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 5.75 million.

18. NFL Draft, Round One, ABC, 5.68 million.

19. “The Masked Singer: After the Mask,” Fox, 5.38 million.

20. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 5.26 million.

David Bauder, The Associated Press

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