The Pew Project For Excellence in Journalism's 2010 The State Of The News Media report estimates that Fox News lead its cable news competitors in profitability for 2009, ahead of CNN and Headline News combined, and far ahead of MSNBC.
CNN chief Jon Klein has stated recently that 2009 was its most profitable year ever, and the SNL estimates agree, just barely. Note what a significant share of revenue cable subscriber fee (vs. advertising) are for the cable news networks (as they are for most cable networks). Subscriber fees are not nearly as subject to rapid change as advertising revenues might be.
While MSNBC has recently closed the ratings gap with CNN, they're still far behind in revenue and profitability, in large part because of the subscriber fee gap.
Note that the ad CPM (cost per thousand viewers) rates in the table below are from 2008, all other numbers are 2009.
2009 Total Revenue
2009 Ad Revenue
2009 Subscriber Revenue
2008 CPM for 30-second ad
2009 Average Monthly Subscriber Fee
CNN & HLN $475.5 million (+1%) $1.18 billion (-1%) $513.4 million $578.8 million $5.81 $0.48 Fox News $534.8 million (+17%) $1.21 billion (+14%) $622.9 million $569.5 million $3.97 $0.49 MSNBC $149.6 million (+1%) $367.5 million (+ < 1%) $183.6 million $180.2 million $3.33 $0.16
Source: SNL Kagan, a division of SNL Financial LLC. All figures are estimates, and figures for 2009 are projections.