Olbermann and Maddow Power MSNBC to Second in Primetime Cable News Ratings

Fueled by the surge behind prime time hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, MSNBC has jumped to second in the prime time cable news ratings. Although CNN and MSNBC each have about half of the audience share of Fox News, March will be the first month ever that CNN has finished third in the ratings.

The problem for CNN is that Fox and MSNBC are both experiencing double digit ratings growth. For FNC, ratings are up 30%, and at MSNBC ratings are up 24%. In contrast, CNN has seen their ratings remain flat. The Fox News prime time lineup is still dominant over the competition, but MSNBC has been able to bypass CNN at 8 pm with Olbermann’s Countdown program dominating Campbell Brown’s show. Most interesting to me is the fact that Rachael Maddow’s 9 pm show has almost caught up to CNN’s Larry King Live. It’s my guess that it is only a matter of time before Maddow surpasses the stale King.

In an AP story about the rating CNN claimed that this was no big deal, but in reality it is a big deal. CNN is the founding father of 24/7 cable news, but this status also appears to be part of their problem. The landscape of cable news has changed. Prime time shows are supposed to entertain while they inform. This is what the prime time lineups at FNC and MSNBC do, or to put it another way, CNN has become a bland network that lacks an identity.

Although the former giant still is capable of putting up monstrous ratings when there is a breaking news story, on a day to day basis CNN seems to have no idea what direction it is going in. Compare this to Fox and MSNBC who know exactly who their audience is and they direct their programming towards them. Ask yourself this question who is the first person that pops into your head when you think of CNN? In all honesty, the first thing I think of is the voice of James Earl Jones saying, “This is CNN.”With Olbermann/Maddow occupying the left, and O’Reilly/Hannity on the right, where does CNN fit in?

Much of the credit for MSNBC’s prime time rise is justifiably given to Olbermann, but even more so, I think Rachael Maddow has been the recent driving force behind prime time. Now that Olbermann has a proper partner in Maddow, MSNBC has been able to create a bloc of programming and further its progressive brand. While Olbermann’s show is doing fine, it is Maddow’s show that is improving by leaps and bounds every week.

Most troubling for CNN is that a 10 pm replay of MSNBC’s Countdown is doing well against CNN’s Anderson Cooper. While people on the left and right tend to engage in the battle between MSNBC and FNC, what is often overlooked is that the real loser in the prime time cable news wars is CNN, which still has its powerful brand name but it is lagging behind the competition in terms of both star power and interest.

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7 Replies to “Olbermann and Maddow Power MSNBC to Second in Primetime Cable News Ratings”

  1. CNN is just plain weak which is why they don’t appeal to anyone. I think both liberals and conservatives think of CNN as being biased against them so they don’t have a built in audience like Fox News & MSNBC do.

  2. CNN is just plain boring. It is tough to watch any part of their prime time lineup without wanting to fall asleep.

  3. …in that it tries to appear balanced. These days, it seems like the people who watch these prime-time shows want to involve themselves in programs that bolster and confirm their political points-of-view. Campbell Brown is boring and Larry King’s chats are only as interesting as one thinks his guests may be. Fox has an audience dedicated in its anti-liberal viewpoint, and doesn’t pretend to mix in facts they don’t make up. MSNBC does a better job with facts, but the Olberman and Maddow shows are slanted left. CNN also doesn’t seem to want to reach a younger audience.

  4. is it Humanly possible Rachaelcould be MORe LIB?? i doubt it. She cant even see past her Dyke Ni\se. she cant see past he bias to even acknolege that a epublican(conserative0 could e corect about anything or attack the wrong LEFT wingers when they9she0 is/are wrong. Rachael needs a life tha includes a right winger at times. Rachael is so bush attacking RIGHTWINGERs, shes unable to see when the RIGHT….is RIGHT. Rachael, RETIRE. its past yru time! sad!

  5. Both news networks are very lame,I will say that CNN is more palitable because they dont have Oberman, Madow and whats his name that new that makes me want to really smash my TV and give up altogether, good job MSNBC, good job american media in delivering us and more importantly our children mental diarea very consistantly.

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