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By Helen Coster
Feb 2 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's Fox News ended January with a 19-year streak as the top U.S. cable news network but ceded ground to CNN, according to Nielsen Media Research on Tuesday.
Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers across the total day and 3.5 million viewers in primetime for the Nielsen ratings year from January 2020 to February 2021, the firm said.
But January marked a shift in both TV viewing habits and U.S. politics, as CNN viewers tuned in en masse as Democrats gained control of the U.S. Senate, former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol and Democratic President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
Across the entire day AT&T Inc-owned CNN outperformed Fox Corp's Fox News in January, with record ratings as the top cable news network that month. In January, Fox’s audience was down 19% in total viewers from the same period a year ago, compared to CNN’s 153% total audience increase in the period.
CNN also topped Fox in primetime ratings in January, a period when Fox News and hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have historically been dominant.
In the first full week following the Jan. 20 inauguration, however, Fox once again beat CNN and Comcast Corp-owned MSNBC in total primetime viewers.
In January, Fox News announced it was adding another hour of opinion programming at 7 p.m., among other changes. It recently hired Larry Kudlow, a former top economic adviser to ex-President Trump, as a contributor to Fox News and host of a new weekday show on the Fox Business Network.
CNN is expanding anchor Jake Tapper’s daily program to two hours beginning in April and adding a Sunday program hosted by Abby Phillip, in addition to other changes. (Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)