The month of October has brought about a change in the ratings at MSNBC as Hardball with Chris Matthews replaced Rachel Maddow’s show as the most watched program on the network.
Hardball with Chris Matthews drew more total viewers than Maddow (726,000 to 725,000) and more younger viewers than Maddow (632,000 to 625,000). Maddow’s biggest ratings problem continues to be struggles of All In at 8 PM. The Chris Hayes program averaged just 536,000 total viewers in October. MSNBC’s 6 PM, 7PM, and 9 PM shows all had more total viewers than All In at 8 PM.
Rachel Maddow is now drawing fewer viewers at 9 PM than Anderson Cooper on CNN. Maddow spent years beating Cooper and being a solid number two behind Fox News, but her program has slipped to third in the cable news ratings, and the struggles of All In look to be the major reason why.
Primetime cable news shows tend to be habit viewing. For years, liberals, Democrats, and progressives were in the habit of tuning into Keith Olbermann/Ed Schultz at 8 PM and sticking around for Maddow at 9. The viewing habits of roughly 30%-40% of MSNBC’s former primetime audience have changed.
A recent Pew study of political polarization and media habits found that CNN is the now the preferred network of liberal and most liberal media consumers. Consistently liberal viewers listed CNN as their top main source of news. MSNBC was third behind NPR. Twenty percent of mostly liberal viewers preferred CNN over MSNBC by a margin of 20%-5%. The research from Pew suggests that liberal viewers are leaving MSNBC for CNN.
I suspect that a sizable portion of MSNBC’s primetime viewership that preferred the populist liberalism of Schultz and Olbermann left the network when Chris Hayes was promoted to 8 PM. Without making a judgment on the quality of All In as a program, the reality is that Hayes’s ratings struggles are dragging down the network’s flagship show.
Chris Matthews has a lot of loyal, long-term viewers, but he should not be drawing more viewers than Rachel Maddow. The fact that MSNBC viewers appear to be watching Hardball then skipping Chris Hayes, but coming back for Maddow is a big problem.
Chris Hayes excelled in the format and timeslot of his former show Up. His program doesn’t seem to be connecting with a number of MSNBC viewers at 8 PM.
MSNBC’s mismanagement of the timeslots around Rachel Maddow is almost criminal. Until the network listens to what their viewers want, Maddow’s rating will continue to be a reflection of the poorly run nature of MSNBC.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is 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