October Audience Insights: TV’s Newsworthy Start to Fourth Quarter

11.30.2020 David Gustafson

British author Graham Swift very well could have been describing October 2020 when he quipped, “Today’s news, which may be yesterday’s anyway, will be eclipsed tomorrow.”

The 2020 version of October featured a continuing pandemic that reached the White House, a buzzworthy vice-presidential debate, a muted presidential debate, and a speedy Supreme Court confirmation – all of which understandably catapulted the three major Cable News networks to record-high viewership.

But political coverage was far from the only newsworthy programming in October. The wide world of TV sports presented college and NFL football action, a World Series, and the pandemically postponed NBA Finals. Combine that with a host of other programming options, and TV kicked off the year’s final quarter on an upswing.

Here now are three key Cable TV insights from October 2020:


Cox video homes tuned in for a daily average of 7 hours, 41 minutes (7:41) of TV viewing time in October – marking the fourth consecutive month of increased viewing, according to Cox Media custom analysis of Comscore data. October finished with the second-highest monthly average of the year, trailing only April’s stay-at-home peak.(1)

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October certainly had its fair share of news and sports highlights, and Cox video homes responded by spending more of their total viewing time watching Cable News and Cable Sports networks. According to Cox Media custom analysis of Cox Communications data, both the news and sports genres collected an increased share of overall Cable viewing within the Cox footprint in October, as compared to the first three quarters of 2020. Even with that increase, the majority (62%) of Cable viewing time was spent watching movies, general entertainment, and special-interest programming.(2)

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The news-infused but diverse viewing trends within the Cox footprint mesh with national Cable viewing trends for October, according to Cox Media analysis of Nielsen data. Looking at October’s most-watched Cable networks across a broad demographic spectrum, the major Cable News and Cable Sports networks are joined by a baker’s dozen of other entertainment options – from Adult Swim to TV Land.(3)

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All that said, perhaps the biggest news from October is that U.S. television households watched more than 3.2 billion hours per week of ad-supported Cable TV, according to Cox Media analysis of Comscore national data.(4) That’s the equivalent of more than 366,000 years of viewing – every week of the month!

To Graham Swift’s point, though, we’ll keep watching to see if yesterday’s viewing news gets eclipsed tomorrow. Until then, visit coxmedia.com for helpful advertising tips and additional insights.   


  1. Cox Media custom analysis of anonymized, privacy-compliant tuning data from Cox Communications video households, aggregated across full footprint; data processed by Comscore and accessed via TV Essentials platform; live linear TV; total day (6a-6a); monthly totals averaged based on number of days in broadcast month.
  2. Cox Media custom analysis of anonymized, privacy-compliant linear TV audience data from Cox Communications; figures reflect distribution of total viewing for indicated time periods, based on standard broadcast calendar.
  3. Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national people meter data via NPOWER; various demos; Live+SD; October broadcast month (Mon 9/28-Sun 10/25); ad-supported Cable networks only, ranked by average viewers (M-Su 6a-6a).
  4. Cox Media analysis of Comscore syndicated national viewing estimates via TV Essentials; Total HH Hours Viewed; Live; Jan-Oct 2020 broadcast months; (regional sports networks not included).


Headshot_David Gustafson
About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Audience Research, David drives positive outcomes for marketers by applying a unique blend of data-informed analysis, industry expertise, and storytelling skills that have earned him a tenured role as the company’s “Professor.” Specializing in audience measurement and market intelligence, David is a member of the Ampersand Cross-MVPD Research Committee, Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore.

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