On Tuesday night, there weren’t any exclusive interviews, lengthy Special Comments, or debates on MSNBC. Or on the other cablers. But on a usual Tuesday night, MSNBC topped CNN and FNC in the A25-54 demo in prime time.
“This is just a statement about the hard work going on here,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin tells TVNewser. “And the success of MSNBC’s prime time. Watch out CNN and Fox.”
The last time MSNBC topped CNN and FNC in prime time demo, when Bill O’Reilly was hosting The Factor, was May 29, the day Olbermann had Scott McClellan in his first cable interview.
Although first place in the category is rare, MSNBC has recently begun to split 2nd place with CNN. Part of the reason is Rachel Maddow, whose strong ratings at 9pmET (placing 2nd, behind Hannity & Colmes, in the demo 11 out of her 23 programs) have helped up the prime time average. “She’s a huge hit,” says Griffin. “We’re in the game. It’s a three-way race. It has never been like that. It’s been a slow growth for two years, but we committed to making a statement during this election, and we did, and look at this. We’ve got a more and more loyal audience, an audience we never had before.”
The ratings race may be closer than ever, but bronze is still far from silver — and silver far from the gold. During the third quarter of 2008, Fox News was way out in front, followed by CNN firmly in 2nd and MSNBC in 3rd place. FNC and CNN have been helped by strong ratings performances during debates and other political events as well.
It wasn’t just prime time — Chris Matthews’ Hardball won in the demo at 7pmET on Tuesday. “Look at Matthews’ numbers. Phenomenal. We start at 5:00 and it helps build to prime,” Griffin says.
But what happens if the main target of Olbermann and Maddow, the present administration, becomes Barack Obama-led? “We don’t care who’s in there. We’ve got a loyal audience now,” says Griffin.
(Olbermann gave a three-minute, Daily Kos-teased Special Comment mid-show during Tuesday’s program.)