United States cable news

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Cable news refers to television channels devoted to television news broadcasts, with the name deriving from the proliferation of such networks during the 1980s with the advent of cable television. In the United States, early networks included CNN in 1980, Financial News Network (FNN) in 1981 and CNN2 (now HLN) in 1982. CNBC was created in 1989, taking control of FNN in 1991. Through the 1990s and beyond, the cable news industry continued to grow, with the establishment of several other networks, including MSNBC, Fox News Channel (FNC), and specialty channels such as Bloomberg Television, Fox Business Network, and ESPN News. More recent additions to the cable news business are CBSN, Newsmax TV, TheBlaze, Fusion, One America News Network, and—for a time—Al Jazeera America.

As the highest rated and most widely available cable news channels, CNN, FNC, and MSNBC are sometimes referred to as the "big three". While the networks are usually referred to as 24-hour news networks, reruns of news programs and analysis or opinion programming are played throughout the night, with the exception of breaking news. Fox News, however, in the last year has been the most watched cable news channel.

Regional 24-hour cable news television channels that are primarily concerned with local programming and cover some statewide interest have included Spectrum News North Carolina (which operates out of North Carolina), NY1 (which operates from New York City), News 12 Networks, FiOS1, and the former Northwest Cable News (NWCN) (which operated from Seattle). New England Cable News covers the six-state region of New England, while the primary core of Spectrum News covers the numerous regions of Upstate New York.

"Big Three" news channels[edit]


Main article: CNN

Cable News Network (CNN) launched on June 1, 1980, as the first cable channel devoted to news programming. The Persian Gulf War in 1991 catapulted CNN into the spotlight, largely because the channel was the only news outlet with the ability to communicate from inside Iraq during the initial hours of the American bombing campaign, with live reports from the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad by reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett. Throughout the 1990s, CNN (which was at the time the only major cable news channel) became very influential, an influence later coined as the CNN effect.

CNN was the first cable news network to begin broadcasting in high definition in September 2007.[1] Today, CNN's television personalities include Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper.

CNN spinoffs[edit]

HLN 2014 logo.svg

In 1982, the Turner Broadcasting System (which would merge with Time Warner in 1996) created a spin-off of CNN called CNN2, which was originally formatted to show the top news stories of the day on a 30-minute "wheel" schedule. The channel rebranded as CNN Headline News in 1983, before the network abandoned the CNN branding and changed its name to the orphaned initialism HLN in 2008, following a shift from news programming towards a mix of news during the day and discussion programs and documentary series at night that began two years earlier.

CNN en Español.svg

Turner founded CNN International in 1985, with a straight focus on international news stories compared to CNN, which featured an equal emphasis and U.S. and world news. CNN launched a special service on January 20, 1992 called CNN Airport Network which is available exclusively in United States airports; the service simulcasts programs from CNN and HLN, but with inserts of information of interest to air travelers. CNN also operates a Spanish language service, CNN en Español.

Turner Broadcasting also established two, now defunct networks. CNNfn, launched at the end of 1995, attempted to challenge CNBC. It ceased operations after nine years on the air in December 2004. CNNSI, a partnership between CNN and Sports Illustrated, attempted to counter the rising success of ESPNews in covering sports news. While the network was shut down, CNN and Sports Illustrated continue to maintain their partnership, with Sports Illustrated operating a sports section on CNN's website.

Fox News Channel[edit]

Main article: Fox News Channel
Fox News Channel logo.png

Fox News Channel (FNC) was founded in 1996 under the ownership of News Corporation (founded by Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch), the third largest media company in the United States behind Time Warner and The Walt Disney Company. The network is headed by chief executive officer Rupert Murdoch. The network began broadcasting its programming in high definition in May 2008.[2]

Since the network's launch, FNC has gradually grown to become the highest-rated cable network[citation needed].FNC's prime time lineup includes programs such as The O'Reilly Factor, hosted by Bill O'Reilly, which has been a top rated program since the early 2000s when considered among major cable news channels. The channel's longtime slogan are "Fair and Balanced" and "We Report. You Decide".


Main article: MSNBC
MSNBC 2015 logo.svg

MSNBC debuted in 1996, as a partnership between NBC News and Microsoft (Microsoft's stake in the channel was gradually bought out by NBC until the latter's parent NBCUniversal bought out the remaining minority stake held by Microsoft in 2011). When the network was launched, its leading hosts included Jodi Applegate, John Gibson, Tim Russert and Brian Williams. For over a decade, the network's ratings were consistently in last place among the cable news channels.

After Phil Griffin became president of MSNBC in mid-2008, the channel began shifting towards an increasingly politically liberal ideology in its analysis programming, particularly in its prime-time lineup.[3][4][5] MSNBC launched a high definition simulcast feed on June 29, 2009.[6]

Notable personalities on the network include Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, daytime anchors Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, and evening commentators Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. The network was noted in the mid-2000s for its harsh criticism of then-President George W. Bush, most notably the 'special comment' segment of former anchor Keith Olbermann's show, Countdown. This, combined with accusations of support for then-President Barack Obama, have led to MSNBC being criticized for a liberal bias, a reputation it has increasingly embraced with its "Lean Forward" slogan (which it adopted in 2011) and open promotion of progressive and liberal ideas.

The channel has a spin-off called Shift. Established in 2014, it is an online-only channel through its website MSNBC.com. The programming schedule is less focused on politics than the main channel, built to be a divergence from it and is more tailored to a younger audience. The channel also contains on demand content.


Until the start of 2002, CNN was the number one cable news network in the ratings.[7] FOX has been number one among cable news audiences since that point.[8]

Starting in 2013, a major ratings decline at MSNBC has pushed that network to fourth place as of March 2015[9]

FOX marked its 15th year as the highest-rated cable news channel in the same demographic, posting 2.8 million average total viewers in January 2017. MSNBC beat CNN in total primetime viewers, ranking sixth among all cable networks in January. CNN beat MSNBC, but trailed first place FOX News, in total daytime viewers.[10][11][12]

Other cable news channels[edit]

General news[edit]

Free Speech TV[edit]

Main article: Free Speech TV
Logo of Free Speech TV.png

Free Speech TV (FSTV) is a national, independent, progressive news network that reaches more than 40 million television households in the United States. The network brands itself as "the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments and corporations." It was launched in 1995 and is owned and operated by Public Communicators Incorporated, a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 1974. Distributed principally by Dish Network, DirecTV, and the network’s live stream at freespeech.org and on Roku, Free Speech TV has run commercial free since 1995 with support from viewers and foundations. The network claims to "amplify underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice," bringing viewers an array of daily news programs, independent documentaries and special events coverage.


Main article: Fusion (TV channel)
Fusion TV 2013 logo.png

Fusion is owned by Univision Communications, The channel was created as a joint venture between Univison and Disney-ABC Television Group subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and relies in part on the resources of their respective news divisions, ABC News and Noticias Univision. The channel launched in October 2013. The network's content features news, lifestyle, pop culture, satire and entertainment aimed at English-speaking millennials, including those of a Hispanic background; the channel is Univision's first major push into English-language programming. The channel features talent such as Alicia Menendez, Mariana Atencio and Jorge Ramos.

It is distributed on both Dish Network and DirecTV along with Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse, Google Fiber and Cablevision/Optimum and is being provided on upcoming Disney/ESPN carriage deals with other providers. Fusion while a joint venture was ABC's third attempt at a cable news channel after Satellite News Channel and ABC News Now. (ABC pulled out of the venture in 2015.)

Newsmax TV[edit]

Main article: Newsmax TV
Newsmax TV Logo.png

Newsmax TV debuted June 15, 2014 as a television arm of Newsmax Media, a media company better known for its magazine and website. The channel runs a mix of rolling news coverage in the afternoons, talk shows, and reruns of documentaries. Talent on the network includes Ed Berliner, Steve Malzberg, J.D. Hayworth. Until mid-2016, it was distributed on both Dish Network and DirecTV, both of whom have since dropped it. The channel does have numerous local broadcasting affiliates. A live stream of the channel is also available for free online at NewsmaxTV.com, as well as YouTube.[13] Newsmax TV has generally been described as conservative, broadcasting many programs hosted by conservative media personalities.

One America News Network[edit]

One America News Network (OANN) was launched in the summer of 2013 by Herring Networks, initially under the cooperation of The Washington Times. The channel's content consists of rolling news coverage and political talk shows from a conservative viewpoint. Currently it is the least widely distributed of the cable news outlets and distributed by Verizon FiOS, CenturyLink Prism, Consolidated Communications, and AT&T U-verse. It formerly streamed online but no longer does so directly as of December 2014; its set-top box streaming apps remain in operation.

In 2015, OANN was said to have viewership that "outperforms Fusion, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera combined, according to first quarter ratings on total hours viewed," despite its much narrower distribution.[14]

RT America[edit]

Main article: RT America
RT America Logo.png

RT America (branded on air as RT) is the official arm of the Russian Federation's media organ, Russia Today. The American channel launched in 2010 and broadcasts content from both the international and United Kingdom editions of RT in addition to original programming from its American studios. Its content is generally considered progressive in character.[15] Talent on the network includes hosts Thom Hartmann, Larry King, Lee Camp, Jesse Ventura and Ed Schultz. It is available nationally on Dish Network and regionally on Time Warner Cable and other cable providers. Additionally, RT America is made available through several streaming apps across many different platforms such as Roku and Android TV as well as several Blu-ray players and smart TVs. The channel's live stream is also available free on RT's website.


Main article: TheBlaze

TheBlaze TV is the television arm of TheBlaze, a multimedia network founded and operated by conservative radio host Glenn Beck. Beck, who previously hosted a daily hourlong television show on Headline News and FNC, formed TheBlaze TV (originally known as GBTV) on September 12, 2012, shortly after leaving FNC. TheBlaze is available via Dish Network and Verizon FiOS, various smaller cable providers, and through subscription Internet television.

Financial news[edit]

The Big Three:[16]

CNBC Bloomberg TV FBN
Headquarters Englewood Cliffs, N.J. New York City New York City
Number of Households in 2012 97 million 57 million 68 million
Profits in 2008 $350 million $15.6 million not reported*
Management Mark Hoffman (President) Michael Clancy (Executive Editor) Roger Ailes (CEO)
  • FBN is operated as a division of the Fox Entertainment Group – which had $1.85 billion in net income in 2004. No information reported for the profits or losses which the FBN division represents.


Main article: CNBC
CNBC logo.svg

CNBC (originally an abbreviation for the Consumer News and Business Channel) was launched by NBC in 1989 after the purchase of Satellite Program Network, and merged with competitor Financial News Network that same year. It is owned by the NBCUniversal News Group, a unit of the NBCUniversal Television Group division of NBCUniversal. CNBC is the widest distributed of the business channels with about 84.27% of carriage. The channel has many international spin-offs.

Bloomberg Television[edit]

Main article: Bloomberg Television
Bloomberg Television logo.svg

CNBC gained a competitor in the financial news genre with Bloomberg Television, which was created in 1994 by Bloomberg L.P., led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is distributed worldwide through cable, satellite and internet providers, and is headquartered in New York.

Fox Business Network[edit]

Main article: Fox Business Network
Fox Business.svg

FBN is the sister business network to Fox News Channel. In October 2007, News Corporation launched its own financial news network called Fox Business Network (FBN); News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch stated his reason for launching the channel was that CNBC is too "negative towards business", and had promised to make FBN more "business friendly".


FBN's ratings were initially too low to be registered beyond Nielsen's margin of error;[17] its highest viewership was estimated to be 202,000 viewers, during the 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time hour of Imus in the Morning's debut broadcast on the network in 2009.[18] By October 2016, FBN had surpassed CNBC, as roughly a third of CNBC's viewership migrated to FBN over the course of a year, with both netting approximately 170,000 viewers.[19] Bloomberg also does not subscribe to Nielsen and its ratings are assumed to be very low (however, its viewership was higher than CNBC's when Bloomberg's programming was simulcast on E! in the early morning hours, an arrangement that began in 2004 after USA Network ended its simulcast of the channel after ten years, and was discontinued altogether under E! in 2007).[20] Currently, CNBC usually has between 200,000-400,000 viewers during the day.[21] In 2000, CNBC had higher ratings than CNN during market hours.[22] The viewership of business newscasts may be underestimated in part because much of its viewership comes from communal areas, most of which cannot be accurately measured by Nielsen and are thus not counted.

Professional Sports news[edit]


Main article: ESPN

ESPN launched a 24-hour sports news channel named ESPNews on November 1, 1996, which is carried by most cable and satellite providers, although usually only on dedicated sports and information tiers. It airs news, highlights, press conferences and commentary by analysts all in relation to sports. ESPNews was also syndicated to regional sports networks as daytime filler programming and also often appears as blackout filler on ESPN or ESPN2 when those channels air a program unavailable in a certain geographic area.

ESPNews scaled back its news-only format in 2013, after several years of ESPN expanding its flagship newscast, SportsCenter, throughout the daytime hours on the main channel. ESPNews newscasts are now branded under the SportsCenter brand, while replays of ESPN2 talk programs typically air when SportsCenter airs on ESPN's main channel.

At least one of the ESPN networks is usually carrying a SportsCenter broadcast at any given time, with the lone exceptions being particularly busy sports days in which all three networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS) are carrying sporting events and the network's multi-channel coverage of major sports events.


Main articles: FS1 and FS2

Fox Entertainment Group re-branded Speed Channel as FS1, a sports channel carrying both analysis shows and live sports events, on August 13, 2013. The studio programs are usually pushed to its sister station, FS2, when live sports are occurring during the broadcast. FS2 acts primarily as an overflow network for FS1, airing their studio programs when they cannot air on FS1 due to schedule conflicts, and also airs reruns of FS1 programming. However, FS2 does air live sports as well, most often from outside the United States.

Fox Sports has, three times in its history, attempted to launch a national sportscast. The first two aired on Fox Sports Net: the National Sports Report from 1996–2002, and Final Score from 2006–2011. The third, Fox Sports Live, aired on FS1 from the network's launch until 2017.


Main article: NBCSN

Originally launched as the Outdoor Life Network in 1995, re-branded in '06 as Versus and re-branded yet again in 2012 as NBC Sports Network, the name was finally abbreviated to NBCSN. The network often airs live sports events. NBCSN is most known for their coverage of the Olympics hosted by Bob Costas. Unlike NBC, which airs reruns of the most anticipated Olympic events of the day, NBCSN airs Olympic events live. NBCSN also air news & analysis programming; unlike ESPN and Fox, the network does not have a flagship, all-sport newscast, with its news and discussion programs generally centered around individual sports. The network's attempts at general-purpose shows have typically been short-lived.

College Sports news[edit]


Main article: ESPNU
ESPN U logo.svg

ESPNU is a 24-hour sports news network dedicated to college sports. ESPN airs a customized version of SportsCenter, SportsCenter U, covering college sports, as well as documentaries about college teams and players.

CBS Sports Network[edit]

Main article: CBS Sports Network

CBS Sports Network was founded as College Sports TV. It still maintains a primary focus on college sports, but has since broadened to include general studio discussion shows and some lower-end professional sports.

Big Ten Network[edit]

Main article: Big Ten Network

The Big Ten Network, whose origins can be traced back to '03, airs a large amount of original sports programming, including a program similar to SportsCenter called Big Ten Tonight, as well as live sports. Unlike other college sports channels, such as ESPNU or BTN's sister station Fox College Sports, BTN covers the Big Ten Conference exclusively.

Fox College Sports[edit]

Main article: Fox College Sports

Fox College Sports (FCS) airs an extremely large amount of live sports. Because Fox Sports has so many rights to so many college sporting events, FCS networks are split by region, similar to Fox Sports.

Longhorn Network[edit]

Main article: Longhorn Network

Launched in 2011 as a joint venture between ESPN & the Texas Longhorns, the Longhorn Network airs over 20 different live sports, as well as sports news & analysis.

SEC Network[edit]

Main article: SEC Network

Three years after the launch of the Longhorn Network, ESPN entered a similard joint venture with the Southeastern Conference, also known as the SEC. While it does broadcast over 20 different SEC sports, it also airs analysis of upcoming games as well as a sports talk show. Some SEC Network football games are simulcast on WDCW.

PAC 12 Network[edit]

Main article: Pac-12 Network

The Pac-12 Network covers every sport in the PAC-12 as well as every team in the conference, airing nearly 900 live events a year. With the vast amount of events in the PAC-12, the Pac-12 Network has been split into 6 separate regional channels.

Weather news[edit]

The Weather Channel[edit]

Main article: The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel logo 2005-present.svg

The Weather Channel is the market leader in news regarding weather forecasting and the most widely distributed cable network in the United States. It was launched in August 1982, under the ownership of Landmark Communications (which sold the network to a joint venture of NBCUniversal, Blackstone Group and Bain Capital in 2008). Originally, the channel was devoted entirely to weather forecasts and news coverage (with computer-generated local forecasts inserted through each individual cable provider every ten minutes, and previously at randomized time intervals, ten times an hour), but since 2001, the network has increasingly cut back its weather coverage in favor of reality television and documentary series (this reliance on such programs has led to carriage disputes between Dish Network and DirecTV in the early 2010s, the latter resulting in the channel's first provider defection, citing subscriber complaints regarding The Weather Channel's shift away from forecast programs). Most of the channel's morning and at least part of its afternoon lineup remains devoted to weather news coverage and national forecasts. As of 2013, it is operated under the same corporate structure as MSNBC.

Since the 2000s, there have been several other attempts to launch weather-centric television channels.


The Local AccuWeather Channel[edit]

Main article: AccuWeather Channel

The Local AccuWeather Channel is distributed mainly as a digital subchannel on various terrestrial television outlets.

AccuWeather Network[edit]

Main article: AccuWeather Network

AccuWeather Network is a national version of the AccuWeather channel. The network broadcasts pre-recorded national and regional weather forecasts, analysis of ongoing weather events, and weather-related news, along with local weather segments for mostly the Northeastern United States. It is currently exclusively on Verizon FIOS.

WeatherNation TV[edit]

Main article: WeatherNation TV

WeatherNation TV, originally known as The Weather Cast, also uses this model (having taken the place of The Local AccuWeather Channel as the affiliation of certain stations' weather channels since 2013), although it also provides a feed directly to cable providers and directly to consumers through the Internet. A national feed is available on DirecTV and Dish Network.

NBC Weather Plus[edit]

Main article: NBC Weather Plus

Before NBC and its partners acquired The Weather Channel, NBCUniversal operated NBC Weather Plus, a digital multicast service that operated from 2004 to 2008 (continuing thereafter as a locally programmed service using Weather Plus' graphics system called NBC Plus).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ TV Week September 6, 2007 CNN HD launches.
  2. ^ Multichannel News April 29, 2008 FOX News to make HD bow with Time Warner
  3. ^ Cable Channel Nods to Ratings and Leans Left. New York Times. Published November 6, 2007. Accessed August 24, 2008.
  4. ^ Kurtz, Howard (2008-09-08). "MSNBC Drops Olbermann, Matthews as News Anchors". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  5. ^ Stelter, Brian (2008-09-07). "MSNBC Takes Incendiary Hosts From Anchor Seat". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  6. ^ MSNBC To Go HD in June
  7. ^ "State of the News Media 2004". Journalism.org. 2004. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 
  8. ^ "State of the News Media 2008". Journalism.org. 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 
  9. ^ "As ratings plunge, MSNBC faces shakeup". POLITICO. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "FOX News Channel marks ratings milestone". Fox News. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2017-02-07. 
  12. ^ "Ratings". cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved 2017-02-07. 
  13. ^ "Newsmax network debuts Monday on Dish, DirecTV". USA TODAY. 14 June 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  14. ^ Roller, Emma. How one TV channel is positioning itself to be the next Fox News. National Journal. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  15. ^ "RT or MSNBC?". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  16. ^ State of the Media 2009 Ratings Chart
  17. ^ "Fox Business Network Flops In The Ratings". The Huffington Post. 28 March 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  18. ^ Krakauer, Steve (2009-10-06). Has Fox Business Found Its Star? Imus Premiere Gets Strong Ratings. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
  19. ^ Ariens, Chris (November 1, 2016). Fox Business Network Sees First Monthly Win Over CNBC. TVNewser. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  20. ^ "Picking Up the Pace in Business TV". The New York Times. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  21. ^ "TV By The Numbers by zap2it.com". TV By The Numbers by zap2it.com. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  22. ^ "Fast Company Magazine Issue 35 June 2000 - Business + Innovation". Fast Company. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2016.