Nov 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Midterms draw fewer TV viewers than in 2018

Screen shot from SnapStream of Fox News' live TV coverage in the 9:00 p.m. ET hour on Tuesday

About 25.4 million people watched midterm elections coverage across 13 live television networks Tuesday evening in primetime, nearly 30% less than the number that watched the results come in four years ago.

Why it matters: Few major upsets made Tuesday's coverage of the midterm results less compelling than in years past.

  • In 2018, Democrats gained a majority in The House of Representatives, ending Republican's two-year control over the three major political bodies — the House, Senate and White House.

Yes, but: More people still tuned in Tuesday compared to the 2014 midterms, in which Republicans won control of the Senate midway through then-President Obama's second term. Just 22.7 million people tuned in that year.

Details: Fox News dominated the ratings, drawing 7.2 million viewers during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m. ET.

  • ABC drew the second-highest numbers with 3.3 million viewers in primetime, followed by MSNBC with 3.2 million, NBC with 3.1 million, CNN with 2.6 million and CBS with 2.5 million.
  • This election was the first time MSNBC pulled ahead of CNN in primetime election coverage, per the New York Times, but the network did manage to bring in more viewers in the prized advertising demographic of 25-54 year-olds than every other network except Fox News.
  • Fox News drew 1.8 million viewers between the ages of 25-54, followed by CNN and NBC, which both brought in roughly 1 million.
  • Other networks that also aired live coverage in primetime included Telemundo, Univision, CNNe, Fox Business, Newsmax and NewsNation.

Be smart: Of those that turned in, 57% watched coverage on cable networks and 43% watched broadcast network coverage, per Nielsen.

Startling stat: Only 7% of TV viewers were aged 18-34. A quarter were 35-54 and the majority (65%) were 55 and older.

The big picture: News engagement began to dwindle during the first year of the Biden Administration and has since plummeted further in 2022.

  • Cable and satellite TV subscriptions are also shrinking faster than ever.
  • About 90 million homes paid for either a cable or satellite subscription in 2018 compared to only 68 million that pay today, although Nielsen's data did include viewership from connected TVs.
  • Nielsen's data included viewership from out-of-home venues, such as bars and restaurants.

What to watch: The news cycle will undoubtedly pick up ahead of the 2024 election, and especially if former President Trump runs again, but television viewership of all live events is expected to continue to decline.

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