MSNBC's Ratings Still Dropping While Fox News, CNN, HLN Enjoy Second-Quarter Boost

The ratings from April through June brought good news for the dominant Fox News Channel, the resurgent Cable News Network and HLN -- which was previously known as the Headline Network -- but that period saw MSNBC deliver its worst quarterly prime-time showing among total viewers and adults from 25 to 54 years of age since 2007.

According to a report released by Nielsen Media Research, CNN reclaimed the runner-up slot from MSNBC for the first time since 2010. Also, the “Lean Forward” network fell 16 percent to third place in prime-time ratings and nine percent to come in fourth in its “total day” numbers.

The second quarter was an especially difficult time for Rachel Maddow, whose show's average audience of 774,000 was the smallest since its debut in September of 2008. According to Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times, a large part of the problem is All In With Chris Hayes, which airs before Maddow's show and has yet to click with viewers.

During its first full three-month period on the air, All In generated the lowest-rated 8 p.m. hour in the 25-54 demo for MSNBC since the first quarter of 2006. In addition, the network’s 10 p.m. program -- The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell -- also had the lowest rating for that important demographic since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Nevertheless, the network did manage to improve its month-to-month numbers from its lows in May, when it fell below perennial fourth-place channel HLN.

Meanwhile, CNN's meager prime-time audience jumped almost 50 percent for the quarter to an average of 666,000 viewers, a dramatic rise from last June's 21-year low. In total viewership, the network was up year-over-year by the same amount in both total day and prime-time numbers while in the 25-54 demographic, the network soared 77 percent.

But after several major breaking news events, including the Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma tornadoes and the murder trial of Jodi Arias, June saw the network slide to its smallest audience (total day and prime-time) since last August, before new president Jeff Zucker took the helm.

According to Michael O'Connell of The Hollywood Reporter website, Zucker's first big programming launch was the debut of the morning program New Day. Even though the show has only been on the air for about two weeks, it has started off down double digits in total viewers and the key demo from the time period's quarterly average.

While some broadcasts have done better than others -- Anderson Cooper's 10 p.m. block has surged by devoting his show to covering the George Zimmerman trial -- one CNN prime-time broadcast that hasn't done very well is Piers Morgan Live.

Morgan began the second quarter with a slight title change from Piers Morgan Tonight, but that didn't prevent the anti-gun activist from drawing an average of only 121,000 viewers in June in the important demographic, his lowest-rated month since premiering in January of 2011 and 42,000 behind Dr. Drew on Call on HLN.

Of course, the Fox News Channel continued to dominate the cable news race for the 46th straight quarter in both “total day” and “prime-time” rankings. In addition, Fox aired the top 13 programs in cable news based on total viewers for the entire quarter and had nine out of the top 10 programs in the 25-54 demographic.

While two prime-time programs -- The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity -- have lost some of their audiences, the channel's biggest improvement was in total day viewership and is due in large part to the success of America Live With Megyn Kelly. From April through June, the two-hour afternoon news program saw its second-best quarter to date.

Kelly's sterling record probably had a lot to do with the announcement on Tuesday that she is headed for a prime-time slot after she returns from maternity leave. The news release doesn't say what changes might be made to Fox's current evening line-up, but stated: “A new schedule will be announced at a  later date.”

NewsBusters reported in May that after double-digit gains during the 2012 presidential election, MSNBC's ratings fell to a seven-year low during the week of May 13-17.

Just one week later, Nielsen ratings indicated that MSNBC had fallen into fourth place behind Fox News, CNN, and HLN.

How far must the "Lean Forward" channel's ratings fall before they make obviously needed changes? Unfortunately, liberals usually decide that the reason for low ratings is that they just aren't liberal enough and must keeping digging the hole they're in ever deeper.
 

Randy Hall
Randy Hall