Ratings are down. Revenue is down, a YouGov brand index study has found that viewers hold more negative feelings than positive about MSNBC, and viewers are leaving MSNBC.
The YouGov Brand Index for cable news revealed that viewers are not happy with MSNBC:
Both CNN networks had been at, or close to, one year highs on consumer perception at the end of 2013, but both have been declining since the start of 2014, unstopped by the recent aggressive coverage of the lost air flight. Meanwhile, Fox News has remained steady and in positive territory. MSNBC ranks fourth out of the group.
CNN, CNN Headline News and MSNBC all track at negative consumer perception levels, which means there is more negative feedback about the brand than positive. Only Fox News Channel tracks with more positive than negative feedback.
MSNBC’s Buzz score has been at a steady -10 since the beginning of 2014. Fox News Channel’s Buzz score has been hovering between 5 and 6 throughout March until now.
What appears to be happening is a full on viewer rebellion. The latest bad news comes just after a report found that MSNBC’s primetime viewership was down 24% in 2013, and the network was projected to be the only one on cable news that lost revenue.
The executives at MSNBC have made several decisions that have angered and alienated viewers. It all began with the debacle that saw Keith Olbermann abruptly depart from his 8 PM program in 2011. The viewer outrage was immediate. After failing with Lawrence O’Donnell at 8 PM, MSNBC had success with Ed Schultz in that slot, but the network enraged their remaining viewers again by shoving The Ed Show to the weekends and promoting Chris Hayes to primetime.
Hayes has been nothing short of a ratings disaster. His show draws 25%-50% fewer viewers than Olbermann did. His viewership of 600,000-800,000 means that his program routinely draws fewer eyeballs than its Chris Matthews 7 PM lead in. Having a show at 8 PM that is dragging down Rachel Maddow’s show is only half of the problem.
MSNBC chief Phil Griffin angered the network’s viewers for the third time when he caved to Sarah Palin during the Martin Basir situation. The end result of these repeated thumbs in the eyes of loyal viewers is that people who formerly supported MSNBC have abandoned the network.
Many viewers don’t trust the peoplewho are making the decisions there. They have seen their favorite hosts treated badly, and /responded by walking away from MSNBC. The negative perception of the network was created by the people at the top. Viewers don’t want Phil Griffin’s vision of a wonk network. His Rachel Maddow clone army of hosts has turned into a circular firing squad that is destroying MSNBC.
Say what you want about the through the looking glass world of Fox News, but Roger Ailes knows what his viewers want, and he gives it to them.
MSNBC has ignored their viewers and is paying a heavy price.
Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews are the only two hosts who draw respectable ratings at MSNBC. Everything else is struggling to survive. There are a lot of good people at MSNBC who deserve better, but most of all, loyal viewers deserve better, and they are expressing their exasperation with what the lean forward network has become by walking away.
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