There’s no denying it… President Trump has been shaking up the television ratings game ever since he came down the golden escalator. And now, with outrage (or fauxrage in many cases) being the top menu item on the TV menu, MSNBC seems to be reaping the rewards. And if this isn’t a blip on the radar, it’s truly phenomenal. For the first time in the network’s entire history, they finished the week number one in total viewership in prime time, not just among the cable news channels, but for all cable networks.
For the first time in the network’s 21-year history, MSNBC finished the week as the most-watched cable network during weekday prime (M-F 8-11pm) in total viewers. According to Nielsen, MSNBC ended the week of July 17-21 as the #1 cable network for all weekday prime, averaging 2.34 million viewers, ahead of FOX News at 2.25 million. MSNBC was previously #1 in cable news in weekday prime during the weeks of May 15, 2017 (behind TNT) and September 3, 2012 (behind USA) among total viewers, but this was the 1st time MSNBC was #1 among all of cable.
Additionally, MSNBC’s 7pm through midnight lineup was the #1 cable network in total viewers.
There’s no denying that MSNBC is rising in numbers, but the next obvious question is… where are they coming from? Fox slipped a little bit, but what really seems to account for the shift is a combination of two things. The first is a partial collapse in CNN’s viewership and the second, when you look at the total number of all news consumers, is that there are new viewers entering the prime time news market. People who might previously have been watching a reality show or some prime time network offering are checking in on the news.
Friday provides a pretty good example of why the total week went to MSNBC and (I can’t believe I’m typing this) Rachel Maddow did most of the heavy lifting. Here’s the Friday chart from TV Newser.
It can’t be sugarcoated. Rachel Maddow took a wrecking ball to the competition. Her show was through the roof on Friday night, pulling the network’s total numbers up significantly and probably sealing the deal for the week. Credit where due, I suppose. I’ve never even found that show to be watchable for more than four minutes before I wanted to jam a pencil in my ear, but this is a capitalist system and the market goes where it will.
One other note of interest is that the decision by MSNBC to add some Republicans to the lineup doesn’t seem to be hurting them. On Friday, the new 4 o’clock show from Nicolle Wallace was doing much better than her predecessor. She even managed to edge out Jake Tapper in total viewers in that slot. Could some of this new surge in viewership be coming from crossover conservatives and right leaners checking out the new offerings? We’ll need a few months of sustained data to be sure, but something is changing. There’s no denying it.