Q2 ’18 Ratings: MSNBC Is the No. 2 Network on Basic Cable, But Lost Viewers From the Demos

By A.J. Katz Comment

MSNBC has established itself as one of the most popular networks on cable TV, and finished Q2 of 2018 was still the second-most-watched basic cable network. The network touting its audience growth in dayside hours (M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.), as well as its performance in total viewers.

In fact, MSNBC widened the gap with CNN by 200,000 viewers, the biggest quarterly lead ever over CNN.

So while much of the news is good for MSNBC–it posted year-over-year growth in total prime time viewers (+6 percent) and in total day viewers (+5 percent)–it did see a notable drop in demo audience from last year. MSNBC was -22 percent in the prime time demo in Q2 2018 versus Q2 2017, a record-setting quarter for the network. MSNBC’s 302,000 A25-54 average in prime time places it in a tie with CNN. MSNBC was also  -5 percent in the total day demo this quarter versus Q2 2017.

Below are the network’s average live + same day impressions for Q2 2018 (Nielsen data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,736,000 total viewers / 302,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  930,000 total viewers / 196,000 A25-54

On the programming front, Rachel Maddow had the No. 2 show across all cable news in total viewers, +9 percent (vs. CNN’s -15 percent) compared to 2Q17 and beating CNN in total viewers for the 35th straight quarter.

Every MSNBC weekday prime program beat CNN in its time period in A25-54: Chris Hayes at 8 p.m. beat CNN for the 3rd straight quarter; Maddow at 9pm beat CNN for the 6th straight quarter; and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell beat CNN for the 5th straight quarter. Leading into prime, Hardball with Chris Matthews topped CNN in A25-54. Following prime, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams beat CNN in A25-54 for the 5th straight quarter.

Here’s a lot more in MSNBC’s release:

 MSNBC DAYSIDE CONTINUES GROWTH WHILE CNN AND FOX NEWS FACE DOUBLE-DIGIT DECLINES IN 2Q18
MSNBC Dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) Bests CNN in Total Viewers for 4th Quarter in a Row, Widens Gap with CNN by 200k Viewers – Biggest Quarterly Lead Ever Over CNN
MSNBC Dayside is Closest to CNN in A25-54 in 5 Years
“Morning Joe” Achieves Largest-Ever Lead Over CNN in Total Viewers, Nearly Doubles “New Day’s” Audience
MSNBC Weekday Prime (M-F 8-11pm) Is the #2 Most-Watched Network Across All Cable in Total Viewers, Dominates CNN in A25-54 for 5th Straight Quarter and Total Viewers for 9th Straight Quarter
MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) Ranks #2 in Total Viewers Among All Cable Networks, Only Cable News Network to Post Growth Over 2Q17, Fastest-Growing Cable Network in Top 20
“Morning Joe,” “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle,” “Deadline: White House,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “All In with Chris Hayes,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” All Top CNN in A25-54
MSNBC Beats CNN in Total Viewers Weekdays at 5am, 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm; Saturdays at 10am; and Sundays at 10am and 7pm
NEW YORK (July 3, 2018) – MSNBC delivered the only growth in cable news during dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) among both A25-54 and total viewers for the 2nd quarter of 2018, whereas FOX News and CNN faced double-digit declines, according to Nielsen. MSNBC dayside rose +8% in A25-54 (vs. FOX News’ -16% and CNN’s -27%) and +8% in total viewers (vs. FOX News’ -13% and CNN’s -20%) compared to 2Q17. MSNBC averaged 921,000 total viewers (vs. CNN’s 721,000) – widening the gap with CNN by 200,000 viewers, the biggest quarterly lead ever over CNN. This was the 4th quarter in a row that MSNBC beat CNN in total viewers during dayside. For all of cable, MSNBC dayside finished as the #2 most-watched network in total viewers, up from #4 in 2017 (ahead of #3 Nickelodeon and #4 CNN). Among the Top 10 cable networks, MSNBC was the only network to grow in total viewers over 2Q17. MSNBC averaged 180,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 194,000). As MSNBC narrows the gap with CNN in A25-54, only 14,000 viewers now separate the two cable news networks – the closest MSNBC dayside has been to CNN in five years.
“Morning Joe” at 6am achieved its largest-ever lead over CNN in total viewers, almost doubling the competition’s viewership (1,064,000 vs. CNN’s 564,000). “Morning Joe” beat CNN in total viewers for the 13th straight quarter, and was up +7% while the competition declined (vs. FOX News’ -4% and CNN’s -13%) compared to 2Q17. “Morning Joe” averaged 232,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 183,000), beating CNN in A25-54 for the 4th quarter in a row.
MSNBC prime (M-F 8-11pm) once again dominated CNN. MSNBC was the #2 most-watched network across all of cable (ahead of #3 TNT and #9 CNN). MSNBC prime averaged 2,175,000 total viewers and 438,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 988,000 total viewers and 327,000 viewers A25-54) and was up +4% in total viewers while CNN was down -15% compared to 2Q17. This quarter marked the 9th in a row that MSNBC prime beat CNN in total viewers, and the 5th straight quarter in A25-54.
MSNBC total day (M-Su, 6am-6am) ranked #2 across cable networks in total viewers (ahead of #3 Nickelodeon, #4 TNT and #8 CNN). MSNBC averaged 930,000 total viewers and 196,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 658,000 total viewers) and was up from #3 in 2Q17, while CNN was down two places from #6 in 2Q17. Beating CNN for the 5th quarter in a row, MSNBC was also the only cable news network to grow in total viewers, up +5% (vs. FOX News’ -4% and CNN’s -16%) compared to 2Q17.
“The Rachel Maddow Show” was the #2 most-watched show across all cable news in total viewers, up +9% (vs. CNN’s -15%) compared to 2Q17 and beating CNN in total viewers for the 35th straight quarter. In addition, “The Rachel Maddow Show” was #1 across all cable news in A18-49, beating both FOX News and CNN at 9pm for the 5th straight quarter. At 9pm, “Maddow” averaged 2,752,000 total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1,004,000), 559,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 333,000) and 399,000 viewers A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ 388,000 and CNN’s 265,000).
Every MSNBC prime program beat CNN in its time period in A25-54. In A25-54, “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm beat CNN for the 3rd straight quarter; “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm beat CNN for the 6th straight quarter; and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” beat CNN for the 5th straight quarter. Leading into prime, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” topped CNN in A25-54. Following prime, “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” bested CNN in A25-54 for the 5th straight quarter and beat both FOX News and CNN in A18-49 for the 3rd straight quarter.
In 2Q18, practically every hour of MSNBC’s dayside programming grew in A25-54. Both “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am and “Deadline: White House” at 4pm beat CNN in A25-54 for the 1st time. This is the 1st time MSNBC has overtaken CNN in A25-54 at 9am since 1Q13 and 4pm since 4Q12.
Driven by MSNBC’s breaking news and analysis, every hour of MSNBC’s weekday programming from 5am-3am beat CNN in total viewers, including: “Morning Joe First Look” at 5am for the 3rd straight quarter; “Morning Joe” from 6-9am for the 13th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am for the 6th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am for the 4th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle” at 11am for the 4th straight quarter; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm for the 4th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 1pm for the 4th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm for the 3rd straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi” at 3pm for the 3th straight quarter; “Deadline: White House” at 4pm for the 4th straight quarter; “MTP Daily” at 5pm for the 5th straight quarter; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 4th straight quarter; “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at 7pm for the 20th straight quarter; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 6th straight quarter; “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm for the 35th straight quarter; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm for the 12th straight quarter; and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm for the 7th straight quarter. On weekends, “AM Joy” bested CNN in total viewers on Saturdays at 10am for the 3rd straight quarter and Sundays at 10am for the 2nd straight quarter. “Kasie DC” topped CNN in total viewers on Sundays at 7pm for the 2nd straight quarter. Additionally, “Kasie DC” posted the network’s best total-viewer delivery in the time period since 1Q03.
NOTE: 2Q18 ratings are based on Nielsen Live+Same data day for Apr. 2 – July 1, 2018. Individual show data represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.
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