For all their ‘leaning forward’ MSNBC ratings are slowly falling behind.
Bill Carter at the New York Times has a long-ish piece today about how the left-leaning network is coming very close to falling into third place behind CNN for the first time in a long time.
He mostly blames this on Keith Olbermann‘s rather spectacular departure last January.
Says Carter: “How badly has MSNBC been hurt by the loss of Keith Olbermann? Enough, apparently, to be on the verge of falling back into third place among the cable news networks.”
Here are the numbers:
Lawrence O’Donnell has lost 100,000 viewers from the numbers Mr. Olbermann posted last September, with 185,000 viewers in the 25-to-54 age group, a drop of 35 per cent. (Bill O’Reilly on Fox, as always, dwarfs his competitors with about three times as many viewers, 611,000.)
More ominously, the falloff for Mr. O’Donnell seems to be affecting MSNBC’s biggest name, Rachel Maddow. Her audience dropped 15 per cent this year, to 245,000 from 289,000. She still beats Piers Morgan on CNN in the 9 p.m. hour, but his show has improved 18 per cent over Larry King’s ratings last year, with 193,000 viewers to Mr. King’s 164,000.
Of course, Olbermann’s numbers at Current TV, where he relaunched his show in June, are nowhere near to what he was pulling in at MSNBC — in the second week of September he averaged a 142,000 total viewers his lowest since his launch week.
However, what he is pulling in at Current more-or-less matches O’Donnnell’s loss, suggesting his hard core following (and he did have one) have sought him out.
But to suggest that MSNBC’s faltering is solely due to Oblermann’s absence doesn’t explain why CNN is doing so well.
Could it be the nation is tiring of partisan news? Roger Ailes seems to think so, or at least he persuaded Howie Kurtz in a Newsweek cover story that Fox is tacking back to centre after moving too far to the right. The Gabby Giffords shooting is cited as the inspiration for the change, but Ailes has always been one step ahead of the curve so it’s not impossible to believe he saw this coming and is reacting accordingly (also: Ailes’ definition of ‘centre’ should naturally be taken with a grain of salt).
Meanwhile CNN ratings this year have seen record highs due mostly to breaking news — Japan, Egypt, Libya (if you missed it, behold again Sara Sidner) — and perhaps even more telling following Obama’s big jobs address more viewers in the (much-coveted) demo (25-54) tuned into Piers Morgan‘s coverage on CNN than did to either Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity.
One gets the sense that the larger story here is that along with record disapproval ratings for one of the most partisan Congresses in memory, the nation is also fed up with all the ‘leaning’ taking place in cable news.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.