MSNBC’s great experiment of putting Chris Hayes at 8 PM has turned into a total disaster as All In is delivering the network’s lowest ratings since 2006.
Chris Hayes’ second full month in prime time since taking over for Ed Schultz saw total viewership drop by 32%, and viewership among those age 25-54 decline by 13%. All In’s bad ratings caused The Rachel Maddow Show to deliver its worst ratings month since 2008. Maddow’s ratings are down 21% in terms of total viewers, and 22% with viewers age 25-54. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell had the smallest decline in total viewers at 18%, but suffered a 33% decline with viewers age 25-54.
Chris Hayes is going to take a lot of heat for these ratings, but it isn’t all his fault. Phil Griffin and the other “geniuses” running MSNBC tossed Ed Schultz out of weeknights because they thought they could remake the network as wonk TV, and attract more younger viewers with Chris Hayes.
They couldn’t have been more wrong.
The problem has been that Chris Hayes isn’t well suited for primetime. He was a fine weekend morning host, but his EmoProg Obama bashing style is the complete opposite of who MSNBC’s audience was.
MSNBC primetime is still the audience that Olbermann built, and the audience in general reflects the Obama coalition. The Obama coalition is the majority on the left. The problem is that Chris Hayes doesn’t speak to the majority of the left. Instead of embracing who their audience is (mainly Obama supporters), MSNBC tried to program their primetime around who they wanted their audience to be. The result has been an epic failure that has seen Fox News, CNN, and Headline News all gain viewers while MSNBC has declined.
By moving Chris Hayes into a spot that he never should have been in, MSNBC has alienated their viewers and wrecked their ratings.
The bad news for MSNBC is that they may not be able to fix this. Ed Schultz may not want to go back to primetime, at least not without a sizable raise. MSNBC has hired a lot of wonkish types over the last few years. They don’t have the kind of liberal firebrand on the bench that could immediately revive 8 PM. The network could always move Chris Hayes back to Up, and take a shot with Joy Reid or Melissa Harris-Perry but that is unlikely since the network bypassed them when they promoted Hayes. The most likely outcome would be somebody like Ezra Klein moving into primetime.
There is one man out there who could immediately step back into the 8 PM anchor chair and deliver a million viewers, but pigs will fly before Phil Griffin and Keith Olbermann ever work together again.
It is clear that MSNBC has to do something soon. (Just asking MSNBC viewers about Chris Hayes and his show provoked strong negative reactions on Twitter. Generally speaking viewers tend not to like Hayes’ politics, and they are bored by his program.)
It looks MSNBC may end up going bust, because they made a bad bet by going all in with Chris Hayes.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and 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