Anyone involved with TV Advertising knows that ratings are critical to the success of an ad campaign. More viewers equals more potential customers. And while ratings are based on past results, they are usually a good indication of what can be expected in the future. Ratings directly impact the cost of buying advertising on networks and individual programs. Spring is a critical ratings period, and since the season just ended a quick recap of the results.

Cable TV Advertising Ratings

For the 35th straight month FOX News Network finished as the top-rated basic cable network. In second place once again was MSNBC. CNN came in eighth, showing that news is still the top draw on cable. While cable news again led the way in ratings it is interesting to note that all cable news ratings were down compared to the same reporting period last year.

Cable Programs Ratings

Four of the top five cable programs were also on Fox. Hannity led the way, followed by Tucker Carlson, who edged out previous number two Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. The leader in primetime viewing was TNT, which relied on a heavy dose of NBA playoff basketball to boost its numbers. Not surprisingly, Fox News and MSNBC were second and third in primetime.

Broadcast TV Advertising Ratings

Broadcast TV differs from cable because the overall ratings of the networks is far less important than the ratings of programs. Often times, cable TV advertising is bought by the network, because many networks work around a theme i.e. Food Network, ESPN, Lifetime etc. Broadcast TV is not thematic. The top Broadcast network for 2018 was NBC, which was helped by having the Olympics and Super Bowl. CBS was ranked second, followed by ABC and then Fox.


Broadcast TV Programs Ratings

Broadcast TV is usually bought by programs because the content of the program will often determine who is watching. Ranking the top programs also comes down to the demographic being measured. Adults 18 – 49 is the standard demo used to rank TV stations. As more younger viewers leave linear TV many broadcasters and advertisers now focus on Adults 25-54. The top 5 broadcast programs for Adults 18-49 for the 2018-19 season were: Sunday Night Football (NBC) Thursday Night Football (Fox), The OT (Fox) Football Night in America (NBC) and The Masked Singer(Fox).


It is impossible to discuss ratings of cable and broadcast without noting the overall decline in traditional (linear) TV viewing. The number of cord-cutters continues to grow and viewing on smart phones and computers is on the rise. Younger age groups are leading the charge away from linear viewing, choosing to watch programming when it is convenient. This is not the death-knell of traditional advertising, as some commentators would suggest. Broadcast and cable still have huge audiences, and if they continue to develop quality programming those viewers will tune in. At the same time, there are new TV advertising opportunities that smart marketers will look to exploit.