A Tough 2010: Keith Olbermann’s Ratings Drop by 25%

The bad news keeps coming for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. The 2010 ratings data is starting to trickle in, and the news is not so great for the Countdown host. In a down year for cable news where all three networks registered a decline in viewers, Keith Olbermann lost 11% of his total audience, but what is most troubling is that among the coveted age 25-54 demographic Olbermann lost 25% of his audience.

In terms of total viewers all three of the cable networks suffered. Fox News declined 5% in 2010 from a Monday-Friday average of 2.568 million viewers in 2009 to 2.426 million in 2010. MSNBC was down 9% in 2010 from 953,000 viewers in 2009 to 870,000 viewers in 2010. CNN suffered a stunning 36% drop in total viewers from 1 million viewers in 2009 to 636,000 viewers in 2010. In the 25-54 demo, Fox News suffered only a 6% drop, because almost 70% + of the audience is older than 54. MSNBC declined by 18% in the demo, and CNN fell by a whopping 37%.

Keith Olbermann’s total drop in viewership was 2% higher than MSNBC’s network average, (11% vs 9%). In contrast, Rachel Maddow lost less of her audience than MSNBC as a whole. Maddow only declined by 6% compared to the network’s 11%. Maddow’s total loss was almost half of her lead in Olbermann, (6% compared to 11%). Olbermann also lost a higher than network percentage of those viewers age 25-54. MSNBC lost 18%. Olbermann lost 25%. Maddow only lost 14%.

Olberman is still MSNBC’s most watched host. Overall, he is the 11th most watched cable news program, but Rachel Maddow was right behind him at 13th, and Lawrence O’Donnell was 14th. The gap between Olbermann and his MSNBC primetime colleagues is shrinking, which is good for the network. The point is that Olbermann’s audience is getting older, and he is working on a network that is trying to target younger viewers. This isn’t to say that Olbermann is doomed at MSNBC, far from it actually, but that 2010 was not a good year for him.

With new bosses about to take over NBC, this is a trend that Olbermann and his staff would be wise to take seriously. Olbermann’s contract is up after the 2012 election, and I suspect that the presidential election will serve its usual purpose as a ratings elixir for the cable news industry, but if Olbermann can’t attract younger viewers, and the ad dollars that come with them, the network could make a switch, but two years is a long time away.

If CNN stays in the tank, I could see them welcoming Olbermann and his million viewers a night with open arms, which would be a big reason why MSNBC would not let him ago, along with the fact that a million viewers is still the best number MSNBC has at any hour. Olbermann has cost himself some viewers on the left in this past year, and I think he has been hurt by not having a Republican foil to play off of in the White House, plus, the passing of his father had to impact him, so I don’t think Olbermann is finished yet. However, it is worth watching going forward to see if 2010 was just a bad year or the beginning of a trend.

67 Replies to “A Tough 2010: Keith Olbermann’s Ratings Drop by 25%”

  1. My heart goes out to him for the loss of his father; I would imagine that would take a toll on anyone.

    I’d be really interested in a study by age of the KIND of news people prefer; e.g., younger viewers seem to like Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow style (yes, I know JS isn’t “news” but he is used that way). Just wondering if that lighter touch and rational based approach is something that appeals more to younger audience.

  2. Sorry but I’m a Rachel and Lawrence girl. Keith is fun but he’s not honest. He lost me for real over reporting daily mail like it was reliable source and his whole rape isn’t rape routine. Maybe he’s from different generation. He’s the sophist and Rachel is dialectic.

  3. I would like to know where these viewers are going? I say they have stopped watching “news” all together as it is not “news” anymore as so much opinion and rhetoric. I am one that has stopped watching MSNBC and prefer to read my news and view blogs online with great opinion pieces i.e. “My FAVE” Sarah Jones and Politicususa.

  4. Interesting. I know I don’t watch the kind of show much when there are no elections offing, while I watch religiously leading up to an election. So I wonder how much is determined by “season” as well as by age. There is also the football season – I tend to watch football rather than other shows I might devote time to, especially when I have NFL Network to fall back on. Once football is over, I’ll have more time on my hands for other forms of shows and entertainment. There is “burn-out” – I can take only so much Sarah Palin et al, in my life, and the knowledge that Keith isn’t always the most reliable source for facts, as he tends to get less accurate in proportion to his outrage.

  5. I agree and I also don’t like HuffPo anymore for news. Not sure why. Politicus rocks! Great writing and I know they’re not going to lie to me. It’s thoughtful and tough positions sometimes, but you get a sense that it’s well thought out and ideology isn’t wagging tail. If I want to watch the news it is BBC.

  6. I stopped listening to KO because the hype outweighed the facts. I like Rachel more, haven’t stayed up for O’Donnell yet, and Stewart I follow only occasionally, i.e. via facebook.

    Of course, I’m beyond the targeted demographic . . .

  7. I find that KO is generally right on target with what I am thinking. He usually says things I would agree with. But then Im looking for the news and can ignore the circus. But one thing MSNBC could do is open itself up to more than premium viewers. I dont get Keith on TV, If I watch him its a stream off the internet from unknown places.

    Todays big CNN story all day long was people setting on the tarmac for up to 11 hours. That could have been a 5 minutes per hour story . Pathetic. Its like they are begging to go out of business.

    I think the state of politics in the US is so bad that people are not paying attention. Where are they going? No wheres. Watching Hill Street Blues or CSI reruns. This aught to certainly help the republicans who have driven our government into the dullness of a Larry King show. It might even make a good conspiracy saying they did it on purpose

  8. Hraf, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that its not a sport unless its played on ice, has a forward named Pavel Datsyuk and has 2 goalies.

  9. I can’t stand Huffpo any more because for the most part it’s a metric buttload of sensationalist hooey.

  10. The reason that people turn away from traditional media to John Stewart is that he is the only one that is telling the truth and/or calling BS on the other networks when they outright lie.

    The tragedy is that he has enough material to keep doing this seemingly forever.

    You want to kill John Stewart? Put away that wooden stake and garlic, just STOP TELLING LIES.

  11. I’m the same way. I watch religiously when leading up to a presidential election and only very limited the rest of the time. This has been my pattern for many years. If I’m watching TV now I tend to go more to movies than to news.
    I think Netflix, TiVo and other services have also had an impact. I know they have for me.

  12. Keith Olbermann is bar none, one of the dumbest guys on TV.
    He makes Glenn Beck look like a genius.
    I can’t believe anyone who’s half-way literate would watch him to begin with.

  13. Good point, Marle. There are a lot of options out there today. The competition for my attention is stiff.

  14. I’d agree with you JonD but then we’d both be wrong.

    Can you provide examples of your assertion? In what ways has Olbermann proven himself dumb in comparison to Glenn Beck? Evan at his worst Olbermann is more honest and accurate than any Republican pundit I can think of, and most Republican politicians as well.

    We have provided here on PoliticusUSA many examples of Beck’s own inability to utter a fact and I have to say that personally speaking, only Sarah Palin can out-do Beck for simple ignorance and I can’t imagine anyone at all making him look like a genius. So please, some examples, some articles you can point to, any evidence at all.

  15. I think another factor to consider when it comes to the competition for viewer interest is the effect that the internet has. Someone earlier mentioned Netflix, and I think that is a huge competition for people’s attention. I am not a cable subscriber, and depend on a variety of internet based locations for my media consumption. So while over the last year I have watched many clips of KO, as well as the Daily Show I do not find myself tuning in every night to see what these people have to say. I know that if there was anything worth watching someone will post it on Twitter or Digg . Are people just not watching these shows as much anymore for the same reason? They know they can get the juicy stuff the next day on Facebook or Youtube?

  16. Kim,

    I am beyond the targeted demographic as well – methinks the best way for MSNBC and CNN to improve their respective ratings is fairly simple:

    CALL OUT THE LIARS continuously – when Faux Noise makes up stories out of thin air, let the LIES be called LIES.

    Same with all of the Rethuggery Obstructionist Party of Teabagging Fewls – call them LIARS – quit using nice words – i.e., disingenious, misinformation, misspoke – people understand the word LIAR – the other words are simply background noise.

    Perhaps some of us over the demographic age watch MSNBC more than their targeted audience because we are not using technology to the extent the younger generation uses it – in other words, after a long day at work, we tend to sit in our comfy chairs and watch teevee and not spend as much time on the computer and other tech toys.

    When you actually talk to others over the age of 50, I have found that a lot of people have the same viewing patterns they’ve always had – watch the local news and the national news and that is it. People who are politically active and interested in the day-by-day BS of politics are the people watching cable news – as well as those who are incarcerated and/or institutionalized with no ability to change channels that are stuck on Faux Noise.

  17. I worked at ESPN when this gasbag self-destructed there. He hasn’t changed one iota: he is still an arrogant, overbearing, misogynistic, hateful, narcissistic, phony, hypocritical, lying, two-faced pompous ass with a serious personality disorder. The more people wake up and see him for what he truly is, the more will turn away from his virulent and disgusting bile.

    Keithy, if you’re listening- go take a few Viagra and read some Thurber while you tell yourself that you’re really a good person and people like you. I hope someday you get your infantile act together, for your sake and the sake of all the people you have hurt in your life… but I doubt you’ll ever even admit you have a problem. In your own smarmy words, “have you no shame, sir!”

  18. Olbermann spews nothing but hate. Its tiring to listen to that all the time. Odoonnel and Maddow are not far off and Matthews maybe a hair better. Fox has the same with Hannity and Oreilly but they have many more inpartial personalities like Shepard Smith, Britt Hume, Greta Van Sustren, Brett Beir. MSNBC is trying to hard to be left and its hurting them.

  19. Keith is an idiot of epic proportions. He is worse than Beck, which says a lot. Here are but a few examples that you asked for that have occurred in the last 6 months or so. And in the interest of full disclosure I am a conservative. However when it comes to Glenn Beck, I can’t stand him.
    KO and his completely idiotic remarks about the Assange rape case come to mind. This includes when he states as fact items that are completely wrong in regards to the laws in Sweden.
    KO claiming Repubs were racist when some called the President arrogant, yet was fine and agreed when Dems more recently said the same thing about the President. He also didn’t seem to offended when people in the Dem caucus said “F—k the President”.
    When he went after Bristol Palin for her abstinence PSA a whole 18 months after that story broke and acted as if it were current news.
    The fact he practically refuses to ever have any conservative on his show. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20101104_Stu_Bykofsky__Olbermann_fair__O_Reilly_balanced__What_we_found.html?viewAll=y
    His unashamed hatefulness on the TV such as when he talks about other TV personalities as “un-American bastards” (as an example) qualifies as idiotic to me.
    Him claimed Bush & Cheney are responsible for allowing 9/11 to occur.
    What about him calling Ted Nugent a “racist” for attending a Beck rally….a rally which Nugent wasn’t at. Good research Keith.

  20. It’s impossible to be dumber or more nuts than Glenn Beck. He’s simply a genius in the mind of the teabaggers and people who think they know everything about the Constitution. This is the same “genius” who was touting conspiracy theory drawings on the walls outside of Rockefeller Center near 30 Rock. He also thinks that Sarah Palin reminds him of George Washington. Let me know when Keith Olbermann ever says anything remotely stupid to stuff like that.

  21. Keith, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Barack Obama and I are all about the same age, which is the higher half of 25-54.

    Lawrence O’Donnell is about ten years older than we are, turning 60 next year.

    Rachel Maddow is about ten years younger than we are.

    There is more than just the age/generation of the host going on in these viewer shifts.

  22. @cassandravert I agree. I think it has a lot to do with the tone of Countdown, and very partisan approach the show takes towards covering the news.

  23. It took me a while to see clearly that Fox News is the only honest news that remains on cable. They back themselves up with facts, they don’t stoop to raw personal attacks unlike Olbermann, Matthews, Behar, et. al.; and they don’t twist up unsubstantiated lies like they do at MSNBC and CNN. And thankfully they aren’t part of the vile propaganda machine that is driving left wing news organizations. Before you cite Glenn Beck as an exception, at least he uses video and audio quotes to back himself up. Olbermann is a has-been sports reporter who is a vile, hateful toad.

  24. I’d be more likely to watch their shows if they were as hard on the current administration as they were on the last administration. Not buying Olbermann’s argument about opinionated journalism, I was stilling willing to entertain our difference in opinion on the matter in exchange for an otherwise good political opinion piece. In lieu of a good opinion piece, I see no reason to accept his pro-democrat rhetoric.

    Last time I watch Maddow she was talking what Obama did for me. I distinctly remember her laying claim to an 800 billion dollar bailout. I still want information about the bailout – – that 800 billion was spent, says nothing of what the administration did for *me*. It was a disingenuous political spin.. It’s not the only one that comes to mind either.

  25. The Swartz runs deep for sure (yoda quote?) … and the Kool-Aid must be tasty sweet…

    Bummper Morgan’s response is what fuels the kind of silly rhetoric that we have on cable news (news??) or should I call them cable-opinion-shows-that-pass-themselves-off-as-news.
    It’s puzzling to me but just a little honest independent research by Bummper would reveal the massive factual failings that are called Fox News; a so called news bureau that borders on out and out dishonesty in some of their stories. Fox will subtlety integrate actual news events and actual news sources with illegitimate facts or false commentary. They do this as a matter of routine that is geared towards achieving an economic or a political end at the expense of viewer comprehension.
    The Fox economics are reflected in their weekly viewership ratings. The political is reflected in the pundits and the talking heads that they hire. The sacrifice of comprehension is reflected in the Bummper Morgan’s of the world.

    These rabid supporters of Fox News are the ones that I am most concerned about because they are the ones who do sometimes kinda understand and who sometimes kinda “get-it”. It’s just that, in a high percentage of times, they shamelessly get it WRONG. They are devoid of and lack the capacity to perceive that character flaw.
    But when they do eventually figure it out and “get-it”, then I definitely want the Bummper Morgan’s on my side. Because they are going to be some psss’d off people, instead of Fox shepple.

    BTW, I am not an overzealous MSNBC fan. As a matter of fact I’m currently on an all-things-MSNBC strike since the mid-term elections because of the endless repetition, the unwarranted attacks on the POTUS and the over the top sarcasm that they pass off as analysis. I may go back to watching selective MSNBC programs after the 1st of the year. In the meantime, thank God for Sarah Jones, CSPAN, Amy Goodman and BBC.

  26. That’s what I like: Fair and balanced, objective, engagement of the issues and people involved. We all know that name-calling and demonization are only acceptable when conservatives and Tea Partiers are the recipients, because they deserve it. Shame on them for disagreeing with liberalism!

  27. KO should go back to sportscenter, oh wait ESPN doesn’t want him.

    If he spent more time discussing facts and spending time in the middle he might maintain his numbers or even increase viewers. Instead he spends his time insulting people and ranting, if I wanted to watch that kind of show I’d watch Fox. His show is no different than the O’Reilly non sense. I like to hear both sides of the arguement and don’t consider myself Liberal or Conservative.

  28. Do you have any examples of stories they pulled out of thin air or are you just a socialist mouthpiece?

    We know the answer, don’t we you slut?

  29. I have my doubts about Keith’s ratings dropping. when he was off 300,oo people called and they must have because he was put back on. Fox hates this guy because Keith is not afraid to take them on. I love keith, Rachel and Lawrence and Ed.


  30. krbmjb05
    I have to agree with you. I have stopped watching Keith and Rachel & Lawrence have fallen by the wayside. I still try to tune into them if I remember.
    I do like Keith, but his little tirades are too Faux news for me, lol!

  31. What are you talking about? Bristol palins PSA just came out with the “Sitch”?
    What are you talking about?
    Ted Nugent not racist? What planet are you from. Keith has Con Dave Weigel on a few times a week.
    Do you know for sure Bush & Cheney didn’t allow 911 to occur?
    You are FOS!
    And GlenDuH is the biggest asshole on the airwaves!
    Go back in your little dirt hole worm!

  32. OMFG! Its the same stupid troll using a different name and now saying Fox is the most honest???
    I will borrow one of Keith’s lines here… “You Sir are a Idiot”!
    Now like I said above worm go crawl back where-ever the fuck you came from.
    We know you are a paid RWNJ operative.

  33. you are missing the show then because if you want to see criticism of this president you won’t get it better than on Keith unless you’re watching Fox, in which case, I’m sure your cult doesn’t allow you to watch other channels so forget it.

  34. This is your brain: FOX 2.426 million
    This is your brain on crack: MSNBC 870 thousand, CNN 636 thousand

  35. Is that not amazing? Are there a million people that desperate? I really do not believe a million people would watch that nut.

  36. “…Fox hates this guy because Keith is not afraid to take them on…”

    Keith is afraid to debate anybody that he fundamentally disagrees with. The people he attacks are never allowed on his show to defend themselves. Ever.

  37. Liberals suddenly buying into the whole Establishment/Big Brother scene. How smart is that? Clearly more and more 60’s hippies have gone senile prematurely. Pravda had nothing on MSNBC. White House officials calling MSNBC host’s cell phones during on the air broadcasts? BULLETIN! This just in! White House declares it’s not really news unless they say it is. Sadly, many now agree.

  38. You are obviously full of it if you thin Weigal is a conservative? Hell he is straight up liberal. For someone that claims to be “libertarian” he sures seems to keep voting for liberals (Nadar, Kerry, Obama).

    And last time I checked, you need to prove something happened, not disprove it didn’t.

    The Bristol Palin thing has been out there for a full year. If you haven’t found it by then, then that is not our fault.

    BTW, when arguing it is usually better to come back with facts then a bunch of name calling.

  39. I always love it when someone poses their intellectual superiority whilst using the f-word. It’s pure poetry, lol. Here, let me dumb that down for you in the vernacular of the sophistry….


  40. I love Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, they are honest, real Americans. That’s why those addicted to the handouts and molly-coddling from the Establishment fear them. Even if they are not always the most polished, they are essentially like you and me, regular people who happen to now be celebrities. They don’t fit into, even challenge, the machine and that makes those who fear life without it crazy scared. I’ve never seen a group more fanatical in their vitriole than liberals who bash Palin and Beck (and Bush). I hope you are all not so angry and irrational in your daily lives, that you feel comfortable behind the anonymity of your screen. If not, I fear for your family’s safety.

  41. Fox is not afraid of Olbermann because he’s an erratic buffoon. They have ratings. Olbermann did not. Really is not rocket science.

  42. No one is afraid of them in the literal sense. beck is just plain hilarious and the people who follow him are too. Anyone that could believe his tripe has to be in need of some serious help. How many times can he predict something that doesnt come true before you guys start to see the light?

    Liberals laugh at Sarah and Beck. Sarah shows hiw little she knows everytime she talks. You should pay attention to what she says

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