Has Rachel Maddow Become MSNBC’s #1 Show?

Regular MSNBC viewers are well aware that the network has built its prime time brand around Keith Olbermann and Countdown. After Olbermann’s show became a hit, MSNBC went through a phase where they were looking for the next Keith Olbermann, which is most likely why they hired Ed Schultz, but it appears that things might be changing. Olbermann still does his usual around million or so viewers, but Rachel Maddow’s program is now running even with or doing better than its Olbermann lead in.

For October 7, which is the last day that ratings are available for, Maddow had 1.81 million viewers to Olbermann’s 1.097 million. Maddow also outdrew Olbermann in the age 25-54 demo, 512,000-449,000. The previous night Olbermann outdrew Maddow 1.16 million-1.085. On October 5, Maddow topped Olbermann again 1.294 million to 1.179 million. Monday was Olbermann’s day as he had 1.15 million viewers to Maddow’s 894,000. The previous week the pattern held steady both programs were within 100,000 viewers of each other twice, Olbermann drew over 100,000 viewers more than Maddow twice, and Maddow drew 100,000 or more viewers than Olbermann once.

Keith Olbermann’s Countdown had a terrible summer. In July, the show had its lowest viewership numbers since April 2008, and it wasn’t just the fact that it was summer, because his numbers were down from July 2009 and July 2008. In May Olbermann’s viewership among the 25-54 demo was down 23% from May2009. Meanwhile, Maddow’s show has been posting steady 6%-7% gains over her previous year numbers.

These numbers don’t mean that Olbermann’s show is in any danger. It looks likely that Countdown has leveled off into the 1-1.2 million viewer range. Olbermann is not experiencing any major declines, but he does seem to have reached his ceiling. Olbermann hasn’t declined. Maddow has grown, and I would argue that because of the style of her show Maddow has more upside than Countdown, which has a very insular no Republicans allowed feel to it, which could be due to the fact that Republicans would rather be set on fire than sit down with Olbermann. I am certain that the Countdown staff tries to get Republican guests.

I personally find Maddow’s show more interesting to watch, because while Keith Olbermann is the progressive’s emotional comfort food, Maddow show is more fact and analysis based. Keith Olbermann gets upset when something happens. Rachel Maddow explains what it means and why it happened. One approach is not better than the other. In fact, both these programs complement each other.

I ,like most people who have spent some time watching MSNBC, assumed that Countdown was the clear number one show, but this isn’t the case anymore. Countdown and RMS have become 1 A and 1B. Rachel Maddow has not only gained on Olbermann, but she is almost ready to overtake his spot at the top of the network. This could be because Maddow is finding a younger broader audience, or it could be because the tastes of viewers are changing. I would like to believe that Maddow’s rise is an omen that we may reaching the end of the popularity of the screaming and yelling, emotion is news phenomenon but I don’t think we’re there yet.

The folks upstairs at MSNBC seem to have taken notice of Maddow’s success as well. As evidenced by Lawrence O’Donnell’s toned down show, the network could be moving away from finding the next Olbermann, and towards more RMS style programming. If Maddow’s recent success continues she soon will replace Olbermann as the face of MSNBC, and she and her program will be one of the most unlikely success stories in the history of cable news.

All ratings info via TV by the numbers

19 Replies to “Has Rachel Maddow Become MSNBC’s #1 Show?”

  1. I am in the under 50 group and enjoy both shows. However, when I want fact-based not emotion based information I always turn to Rachel Maddow.

    Good article Jason.


  2. For some reason Keith keeps my attention better than Racheal. But I think part of it is that I have to watch them on a illegal feed on the net and move on to other things once I have the news. Cant miss out on my old Kung Fu movies you know.

    That said I am very happy for Ms Maddow as I fully agree she is smarter than a whip and pleasant to watch. Kind of a come into my living room and set down for a talk type show

  3. Great analysis. And this is great news; Rachel oozes integrity and smarts and I especially like that she is respectful of her guests while insisting that they debate ideas, not talking points. When they go down the talking points road, she debunks them like mad. When she’s on the Sunday shows, it’s look out clowns:-)

  4. Both Olbermann and Maddow rank far behind Fox News’ competition.

    Olbermann is still hung up on prosecuting Bush and Cheney for Iraq WMD stuff. Go figure.

  5. Hi,
    How can anyone listen to those 2 fools. Olbermann is a very skillful LIAR.
    He does everything he can to smear the conservatives, he is a disgrace together
    with the arrogant Rachael. Check their “fact” with the real truth, you will be astonished how they lie.
    Make a search on You tube/olberman and you will find more lies.
    Capt BJ

  6. That’s like saying we Americans are still hung up on prosecuting Osama Bin Laden for his hand in 9/11.

    More Americans are dead because of what they did than died on 9/11. When you count the Iraqis and other foreign fighters who died in that war the loss of life gap becomes cavernous.

  7. People listen to them because there has to be a far left biased media outlet to balance out the far right bias of Fox. It’s really not hard to understand that, is it?

  8. Rachel and Keith are certainly a complement to one another, add the new show “Last Word” with O’Donnell and you have a nice mix of highly entertaining, substantive and thought-provocative politics. Unlike the Fox Propaganda Network, they provide truthful, insightful and electrically charged political news to their fan base. Fox panders to the religious right and the tea party extremists who react rather than think their way through the political process. Thank you MSNBC for providing an alternative to the stale and hateful politics of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

  9. Strangely, when I want fact based analysis I go to Comedy Central’s TDS and Colbert. That’s facts on steroid and hilariously told too.

  10. I love both of those shows – I also watch Olbermann and Rachel as well.

    I don’t think any of us should just watch one thing … and Comedy Central and Colbert definitely keep us laughing as well as providing additional food for RWNJ fodder. They are both talented, bright, enthusiastic men and have that flair for humor/politics. Must be a specific gene for their special kind of talent.

    Maddow is very intellectual and of course the RWNJ HATE her because she is 1) female, 2)white and 3) a lesbian. Wow all in one package – one big pile of hate all wrapped into a bubble for them. On the other hand, they probably don’t understand a word she says – I find her intellectually fascinating. She’s brilliant – and very skilled. She cuts with a knife so sharp no one can feel it.

    I love Keith … he’s a survivor and he’s also funny and smart. He was one of the few who “took on” the Bushies and he’s still doing it. Like him or hate him, he is very credible to our Progressive community on the Left. He can make absolute fools out of the RWNJ’s he features – or maybe he just exposes the fools that they already are.

    If people don’t like them, why watch them? Or criticize them? Interesting how some people obviously FEAR the information that is out on these two shows. And now with O’Donnell? If they don’t want to watch – then go watch FUX Propaganda Channel. Talk about ILLinformed! I love it when FUX gets “punked” … and it’s so easy to do with the absolute low intelligence people they have on board.

    We’ve block ALL the FUX channels on our TV’s. They are 2 dumb for words.

  11. I recall reading last year that FoxPac viewers know less about how our government works and government policies than any other group of viewers in America. Those who watched Stewart and Colbert out-scored all other viewers in these areas, yet, for some reason, FoxPac viewers tend to think ratings = accuracy of content. It’s almost impossible to be this unaware. Sponge Bob Squarepants has millions of viewers, but that doesn’t mean that it contains any hard news.

  12. Olbermann reminds me too much of the O’Reily of the left, hence I really can’t stand watching it. Although I do enjoy watching Rachel’s show, and I’ve been listening to her since her radio days.

    It’s only a matter of time before Rachel will surpass Olbermann, especially when the elections turn.

  13. can’t stand Matthews. too much cross talk and yelling. he sounds like he’s yelling even when he’s just talking. its a style thing, i know. but i just can’t take more than five minutes.

    I think Lawrence O’donnell is going to settle in as a potent force. his first week was rough, second was better.

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