It has been a banner year for cable news. Compared to the top 10 cable news programs of 2016, average viewership of cable's most watched shows was up 11.4%.

It's easy to understand why. While the presidential election was last year, which would predictably generate an increased interest in current events, the Trump administration has been a bottomless well of news stories.

One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Sean Hannity, who took first place among cable news programs, with 3.2 million viewers each night. Hannity supplanted The O'Reilly Factor at the top, after Bill O'Reilly was forced out of Fox News in the wake of sexual harassment revelations.

Graph showing 10 most watched cable news programs

Data source: TVNewser (2016, 2017). Chart by author.

Another major beneficiary is Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show. She saw a 77% increase in average viewership, with 2.6 million viewers each night.

All told, Fox News claimed eight out of the 10 top rankings. The conservative-leaning news channel continues to benefit from addressing a much more ideologically concentrated slice of the news market. Whereas there are a number of more liberal-leaning channels -- CNN, MSNBC, and others -- Fox is the only major cable news channel that caters to a conservative audience.

The net result is that Fox has fewer direct competitors, which allows it to consistently dominate the cable news ratings each year.

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