MSNBC October Ratings: 2.8 Million Viewers Tune Into Prime Time, a Network Record

By A.J. Katz Comment

Driven by presidential debate coverage and breaking news, MSNBC averaged the largest prime-time audience in its 24-year history in October, earning 2.7 million viewers in the 8-11 p.m. ET time period.

Not only is that the largest total audience in network history, but it’s also the second-largest audience on cable television, only behind rival Fox News and that network’s outrageous 4.9 million viewer average.

MSNBC beat CNN in total viewers this month (2.7 million versus 2.45 million), but fell short to CNN among adults 25-54 (475,000 versus 709,000) in prime time.

In total day, the trend was similar: MSNBC averaged more total viewers than CNN (1.5 million versus 1.4 million), but fewer adults 25-54 (243,000 versus 361,000).

Relative to September 2020, MSNBC posted +31% growth in total prime-time viewers and +52% in the prime-time demo. In total day, the network was +26% in total viewers and +41% in the demo.

Compared to October 2019, which of course was not the month before a presidential election, MSNBC delivered +38% growth in total prime-time viewers and +45% growth in the prime-time demo. In total day, MSNBC grew +29% in total viewers and +35% in total day demo. MSNBC drew fewer viewers for its debate coverage than Fox and CNN, which is probably why there’s less year-over-year growth for the network than what you saw for FNC and CNN.

Finally, how did MSNBC perform relative to the October before the most recent presidential election (2016)? Quite well. The network was +60% in total prime-time viewers and +10% in the prime-time demo. In total day, the network was +66% in total viewers and +10% in the demo.

MSNBC was stuck in third place behind CNN in total viewers before the election, and only since Trump was elected has the network moved to No. 2 in total viewers. It remains third in the demo.

The ratings for October 2020 (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 2,703,000 total viewers / 475,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.): 1,469,000 total viewers / 243,000 A25-54

Morning Joe and The Rachel Maddow Show each had their most-watched months ever, averaging 1.6 million and 3.8 million total viewers respectively, while The 11th Hour With Brian Williams swept the 11 p.m. cable news competition in both total viewers and among adults 25-54. Williams delivered MSNBC’s largest adults 25-54 audience in the 11 p.m. time slot since April 2003.

Here’s MSNBC’s press release:

MSNBC POSTS HIGHEST-RATED MONTH IN NETWORK HISTORY, DOMINATES CNN IN TOTAL VIEWERS IN OCTOBER

MSNBC Delivers Record Viewership, Bests CNN Across Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) in Total Viewers

“Morning Joe’s” Record-Breaking Month More Than Doubles CNN’s Ratings, Posts Largest Lead Over CNN in the Timeslot Ever, Grows More Than FOX News

Prime Posts Best A25-54 Delivery Since October 2012, Total Day Posts Best A25-54 Delivery Since November 2012

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” Reigns at #1 in Total Viewers and A25-54, Beats CNN for the 51st Month in a Row in Total Viewers   

“The Rachel Maddow Show” Scores Best Audience Delivery Ever, Tops CNN for 89th Straight Month in Total Viewers

MSNBC Achieves Highest-Rated Month in 25-Year History Weekdays at 5am, 6am, 9am, 10am, 1pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm and 11pm, Saturdays at 8am, 3pm-5pm and 5pm

MSNBC Weekend Total Day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) Achieves Double-Digit Growth

TV Premiere of “The Way I See It” Shatters Ratings Record with More Than 6M Total Viewers on MSNBC Across Four Airings

MSNBC Digital Reach and Video Viewership Grows by Double Digits in 2020, Ranks #1 in Political News Videos

NEW YORK (October 27, 2020) – MSNBC posted the highest-rated month in the network’s 25-year history and ranked #2 in all of cable during a crucial month for Decision 2020 coverage, according to Nielsen. Total day (M-Su 6am-6am), dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) all beat CNN in total viewers and posted double-digit growth compared to October 2019.

Total day ranked #2 across all of cable television for the 6th straight month, drawing 1.5M total viewers – an all-time high (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 ESPN and #5 HGTV) – and easily topping CNN’s 1.4M. In total viewers, total day increased viewership by double digits (up +29% compared to October 2019). In A25-54, total day scored its best audience performance since November 2012, averaging 247K viewers and increasing viewers by +35% compared to October 2019.

Prime drew a record-shattering 2.8M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 2.5M), marking the highest-rated month ever and a +36% viewership increase compared to October 2019. Prime dominated CNN for the 47th month in a row, ranking #2 in cable news and #2 in all of cable television (ahead of #3 ESPN, #4 CNN and #6 HGTV). In A25-54, prime delivered its best audience performance since October 2012 with 486K viewers, a +41% increase compared to October 2019.

Dayside topped CNN for the 6th month in a row averaging 1.53M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.42M), up +22% compared to October 2019. In A25-54, dayside drew 235K viewers, up +37% compared to October 2019.

“Morning Joe” at 6am achieved its highest-rated month ever, averaging 1.6M total viewers and scoring its largest lead over CNN ever (+832K). This was the 68th straight month that “Morning Joe” beat CNN in total viewers. The show was up +28% in total viewers, growing more than FOX News (+21%) compared to October 2019. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” ranked #2  in cable news for the 36th straight month and grew more than FOX News (+29% vs. FOX News’ +20%) compared to October 2019.

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” swept the competition by finishing 1st in both total viewers and A25-54. In total viewers, “The 11th Hour” drew a record 2.7M viewers (vs. FOX News’ 2.4M and CNN’s 1.4M), the highest delivery for the program ever. In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” delivered MSNBC’s best audience performance in the timeslot since April 2003, averaging 505K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 478K and CNN’s 436K). “The 11th Hour” also posted double-digit growth compared to October 2019, increasing total viewership by +44% and A25-54 viewership by +59%.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” dominated in October, scoring its highest-rated month ever and topping CNN for the 89th consecutive month. In total viewers, “Maddow” averaged 3.8M (vs. CNN’s 2.4M), a +19% increase in viewership compared to October 2019. “Maddow” also posted its highest-rated A25-54 delivery since September 2018 with 644K viewers, a +11% increase compared to October 2019.

The following programs also beat CNN among total viewers: In its initial month, “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” at 5am averaged 562K total viewers, a record for time period, and the 6th straight month MSNBC topped CNN during the hour; “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for the 45th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am topped CNN for the 6th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm topped CNN for the 4th straight month; “Deadline: White House” at 4pm topped CNN for the 40th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm topped CNN for the 6th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm topped CNN for the 4th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm topped CNN for the 4th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 65th straight month and delivered a record-breaking month. “MTP Daily” at 1pm and “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm both delivered record-breaking months in total viewers.

Weekend total day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) posted double-digit growth and was up +31% in total viewers and up +27% in A25-54 compared to October 2019. On Saturdays, “Velshi” at 8am ranked #2 in the hour (it’s two hours 8a-10a) for the 4th month in a row in total viewers. “Velshi” scored its best delivery ever with 1.1M total viewers and grew more than FOX News (+44% vs. FOX News’ +28%). In A25-54, “Velshi” drew 180K viewers – the best delivery in the timeslot since December 2012 and grew more than FOX News (+45% vs. FOX News’ +33%).

The commercial-free television premiere of “The Way I See It” on MSNBC delivered a record 4.2M total viewers (10pm-11:40pm) on Friday, October 16 and over 6M across all airings, according to Nielsen. The documentary, co-presented by Focus Features and MSNBC Films, ranked #2 in all of television in the timeslot and achieved the network’s highest-rated non-news, non-live program ever in MSNBC’s 25-year history. In A25-54, “The Way I See It” drew just under 1M viewers across all airings (618K for the initial). This was the 1st project from the newly formed NBC News Studios, an in-house production studio that primarily produces documentary films and series.

MSNBC digital reach has grown in 2020 increasing viewership by +40% compared to 2019, according to Comscore Media Metrix. MSNBC digital video viewership and engagement has spiked in 2020 with an average of 162M monthly video views marking the strongest year on record and up +42% compared to 2019 in full. MSNBC’s video views within the political news competitive set ranks at #1 throughout 2020 topping CNN Politics by +113% and FOX News Politics by +469% on average. Viewers of the MSNBC political news set watch for an average 45 minutes per viewer, 3x more than CNN (15 minutes) and more than 2x that of FOX News (18 minutes).

NOTE: October ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 09/28/2020-10/25/2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.

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