Trump’s legal woes have powered MSNBC to close the viewer gap with top-rated Fox News and sometimes beat the cable news ratings leader.
However, Fox News still pulls strong ratings numbers and on many news nights when MSNBC doesn’t have Rachel Maddow or breaking news wins cable news primetime.
There are a few reasons for Fox News’s viewership decline. Jesse Watters has not recovered Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. viewership numbers. Without Carlson, On Thursday of this past week, Watters drew roughly half the audience Carlson used to bring. It was barely enough to beat MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, who is a Maddow favorite but has been ratings weak link in MSNBC’s primetime lineup for years. MSNBC’s 9 p.m. with Alex Wagner is down nearly a million viewers over what Maddow did nightly, but she is highly competitive with the declining Sean Hannity. At 10 and 11 p.m. ET, Lawrence O’Donnell and Stephanie Ruhle both beat their Fox News competition.
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Trump’s feud with Fox News has also taken a bite out of the network. The ex-president’s refusal to show up at Fox News-hosted debate could crash the network’s ratings for the event. Cable news depends on debates to be big eyeballs and revenues, so if the Fox debate bombs without Trump, it could put other Republican presidential debates in jeopardy.
The Trump indictments show that anti-Trump America remains motivated to oppose Trump, while Fox’s position of having to defend Trump and push back against the ex-president’s mounting legal woes is not inspiring the Republican base that is the backbone of Fox News’s viewership.
Cable news ratings remain down. None of the three networks are averaging 2 million viewers a day. After the pandemic, most Americans appear to be choosing to stay unplugged from news and current events.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a 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
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