It looks like MSNBC has a big hit on their hands with Lawrence O’Donnell’s 10 PM program The Last Word. Not only is his audience growing, but on Tuesday, he did something unheard of for new show on MSNBC. He broke into the Olbermann/Maddow rare air of having over 1 million total viewers.
The ratings for The Last Word have been outstanding since the program debuted as MSNBC’s top rated show on September 28th. On that night, helped by an interview with Vice President Joe Biden, The Last Word had 928,000 total viewers, compared to 778,000 for Rachel Maddow, and 892,000 for Keith Olbermann. Lots of new shows have big debuts, but what makes O’Donnell’s show different is that it is sustaining and growing.
Viewers liked the first show because they came back and more for the second night. For show number two, O’Donnell had 953,000 total viewers, which was virtually identical to his lead in Rachel Maddow’s 969,000 total viewers. On night three of the show, The Last Word had 935,000 total viewers, and kept a vast majority of Rachel Maddow’s total audience of 1.11 million. On Monday October 4th, O’Donnell actually outperformed his Maddow lead in, 887,000 total viewers to 854,000 total viewers. On Tuesday, October 5th, The Last Word broke 1 million total viewers with 1.017 million viewers. O’Donnell was aided by a large lead in audience from Maddow of 1.294 million viewers.
MSNBC has been trying for what seems like forever to launch hit shows, and they finally have one with The Last Word. They thought that Ed Schultz and The Ed Show were going to blow up this way, but instead it took Schultz time to find and grow his audience, and the reward is that Schultz just had his highest rated quarter ever. It took Rachel Maddow’s show a bit of time to grow and develop, but O’Donnell has come storming out of the gate and burying CNN and Anderson Cooper.
Most encouraging for both O’Donnell and the network is that not only is he holding on to Rachel Maddow’s audience, but his ratings are better than the Countdown replay that used to air in the 10 PM slot. It is no secret why The Last Word has been successful. The key to his success is really good guests. O’Donnell is attracting guests who would not normally turn up on MSNBC like Charlie Crist, Levi Johnston, and Michael Steele. Unlike Olbermann, O’Donnell actually has Republicans on his show. (Rachel Maddow would love to have Republicans on her show, but they are terrified of her, and refuse to come on).
I think The Last Word, which is more fact than opinion based, is the perfect compliment to The Rachel Maddow Show. It was a mystery to many MSNBC viewers why the network took so long to take advantage of the lead in audience that Rachel Maddow generates. O’Donnell’s start is even more impressive because isn’t easy for a new show to debut so strongly, just ask CNN’s Spitzer/Parker which has gotten off to an awful start, mostly due to the fact that it is a terrible show, but he has done it. I think MSNBC has hit a home run with The Last Word. What do you think?
All ratings info via TV by the Numbers
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association