CNN edges out Fox on second day of election coverage, ESPN faces layoffs

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CNN, which usually trails Fox News in ratings, came in first in cable news ratings on Nov. 4, the second day of election coverage. Photo by Ken Lund.

Approximately 57 million viewers watched coverage of the 2020 election, down from 71 million in 2016. That’s despite record-setting voter turnout and outsized interest in the race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. 

Overall numbers were down due to a sharp decrease in viewership for broadcast news programs. Viewership for ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS decreased by 34%.

Cable news held steady this year, led by a record-setting showing from Fox News viewers. This was the first year that cable news outlets’ election coverage had a bigger audience than broadcast networks.

Fox News had about 14 million viewers on the night of Nov. 3, but the viewership dropped off in subsequent days. CNN led the second night of election coverage with about 7.1 million viewers, compared to Fox News’ 6.3 million.

ESPN’s ratings have also dropped sharply, corresponding to a decrease in sports viewership generally. ESPN also cut around 500 positions within the company. As fewer people sign up for cable bundles in favor of streaming, the company loses revenue from viewers who opt out of sports programming. The fees for sports rights are also going up, as ESPN prepares for a new round of negotiations to keep its rights to professional sports leagues.

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