Fox News leads Trump-Biden election night coverage with record audience

Fox News election night anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
(Fox News)

Fox News was the top choice among viewers for coverage of the 2020 election as President Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, were in a tight battle for 270 electoral votes.

But Nielsen data showed a lot fewer viewers turned to TV for presidential election coverage than in 2016, when Trump won the presidency in his race against Hillary Clinton.

Nielsen data showed Fox News, led by anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, averaged 13.8 million viewers, a record for cable news coverage of a presidential election, from 8-11 p.m. ET.


CNN finished second for the night (with 9.1 million viewers), followed by MSNBC (7.3 million), ABC (6.1 million), NBC (5.6 million), the Fox broadcast network (3.3 million), Fox Business (366,000) and CNBC (117,000).

Coverage also aired on WGN America, PBS, Telemundo, Univision and CNN en Español, Newsy, Vice and Estrella
Fox News has seen its ratings surge overall in 2020, some nights topping all other networks on cable and broadcast television. For the second presidential cycle in a row, the top-three finish of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC shows how cable news has become the main destination for politically engaged viewers, taking the mantle from broadcast networks, which have long used their presidential election night coverage to showcase their news operations.

Nielsen said a total of 56.9 million viewers watched election coverage in prime time, down 20% from the 71.4 million viewers who watched in 2016. It was the lowest total audience since 2004, when George W. Bush earned a second term in the White House after defeating John Kerry.

The drop is likely a reflection of the overall decline in the usage of traditional television, especially among viewers under the age of 50. Many news outlets made streaming coverage of election results available on a wide range of platforms.

The live stream of CNN’s coverage had a peak 1.1 million concurrent viewers streaming at its peak on election night over a number of digital platforms. CBSN, the digital stream of CBS News, had 19.5 million unique visitors on election day, a new record for the service.

The TV number also may have dropped as it became apparent that no winner was going to be declared on the night.


Votes were still being counted Wednesday in a number of battleground states, with Biden holding a lead in electoral votes and appearing to be on a path to victory, although the Trump campaign is asking for a recount in Wisconsin, one of the states that went to the Democrats.