MSNBC has been on a historic run during the Trump years.
It has posted triple digit percent viewership growth since 2015, and has gone from a top 30 basic cable network during the Obama years, to the second-most-watched cable network over the past few years, including 2020.
It remains to be seen whether the left-leaning cable newser can maintain this significant audience during what should be a less chaotic four years, but 2020 was a great year for the network, capped off by solid ratings for its wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, and a historic presidential election.
MSNBC delivered the largest total day and prime time audience among total viewers in its history this year, with more than 1.2 million viewers in total day and 2.1 million viewers in prime time, according to live plus same day data from Nielsen.
MSNBC averaged more total viewers than CNN this year, but fewer adults 25-54. MSNBC also finished behind Fox News, both in total viewers and among adults 25-54 for the year.
Compared to its final 2019 ratings, MSNBC was up +23% in total prime time viewers, +28% in the prime time demo (adults 25-54), +26% in total viewers across the 24-hour day, and +32% among adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.
The fact that there’s a higher percentage of year-over-year growth among adults 25-54 than among total viewers makes sense considering younger viewers are more likely to tune into cable news during an election year than in an off year. The year 2020 was of course an election year, whereas 2019 was not.
MSNBC delivered less viewership growth than Fox News and CNN relative to 2019, but the more growth relative to 2016. As expected, there’s more growth among adults 25-54 than total viewers from 2019 across cable news for the reasons explained above.
However, compared to the most recent presidential election year (2016), MSNBC saw far more growth among older audiences (total viewers) than among the key A25-54 demo. That’s partly due to the fact that the average age of the linear TV viewer has dramatically increased over the past 4 years, but MSNBC’s average age has a;sp increased at a more rapid rate than its competitors’.
MSNBC was up +97% in total prime time viewers, but just +32% among adults 25-54 in prime time; +105% in total viewers across the 24-hour day, but +31% among adults 25-54 across the 24-hour day.
Below are the final 2020 Nielsen live+same-day numbers:
- Prime Time (Mon-Sun): 2,132,000 Total Viewers / 356,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,238,000 Total Viewers / 201,000 A25-54
MSNBC ended the year on a high note. Morning Joe, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams and The Rachel Maddow Show, three of the network’s signature shows during the Trump administration, set December audience records and beat their Fox News time slot competition in December – the 1st time since 2001.
Since the election, MSNBC is No. 1 on cable in total viewers (exclusively on weekdays. Fox News pulls ahead if one throws weekends into the mix). Several shows have finished at No. 1 in total viewers during this period including: Deadline: White House at 4 p.m., The Beat with Ari Melber at 6 p.m, The ReidOut at 7 p.m. for the last 5 weeks and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell at 10 p.m. for the last 3 weeks.
Here’s MSNBC press release concerning 2020 ratings:
MSNBC ENDS 2020 AS THE #2 NETWORK ACROSS ALL OF CABLE FOR THE 3RD STRAIGHT YEAR — CAPPING SIX YEARS OF RECORD-BREAKING GROWTH
MSNBC Dominates CNN in Total Viewers for the 4th Year in a Row
Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm), Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and Weekend Total Day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) Deliver the Highest-Rated Year in Network History in Total Viewers, Achieve Double-Digit Growth
“Morning Joe,” “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” Draw Historic Viewership in 2020 and Finish #1 Over FOX News in December – the 1st Time Since 2001
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” Sweeps the Competition Again, Finishes #1 for the 4th Straight Year, Tops FOX News for the Last Six Straight Weeks
“Deadline: White House” at 4pm, “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm and “The ReidOut” at 7pm Finish #1 for the Last 5 Weeks Over FOX News
Every Hour of MSNBC Weekday Programing from 5am-3am Achieves Viewership Highs in 2020
MSNBC Total Day Grows +254% in Total Viewers Since 2015 – Adding nearly 900K viewers – the Most of Any Cable Network
MSNBC Prime Grows +270% and Dayside Grows +340% in Total Viewers Since 2015
MSNBC is the Highest-Rated Network Among African American Viewers for the 3rd Straight Year, Also Delivers Record Rating in Hispanic and Asian American Viewers
MSNBC Digital Reach and Video Viewership Grows by Double Digits in 2020, Ends 2020 as #1 in Political News Videos
NEW YORK (December 18, 2020) – MSNBC ends 2020 as the #2 network in total day across all of cable, capping six straight years of historic growth and once again topping CNN in total viewers, according to Nielsen. MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am), prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) and dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) all delivered the highest-rated year in MSNBC’s 25-year history.
Since 2015, through two major election cycles, total day increased viewership by +247% adding nearly 900K viewers – the most of any network – propelling MSNBC from #28 in 2015 to #2 across all of cable. Total day ranked #2 in all of cable for the 3rd year in a row (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 HGTV and #6 ESPN). In 2020, total day delivered a record-high 1.2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.1M) topping CNN for the 4th straight year. Compared to 2019, total day on MSNBC increased viewership by +27% in total viewers. In A25-54, total day scored a record high 205K viewers – the highest-rated year ever in the demo, increasing viewership by +33% compared to 2019.
MSNBC prime was the #2 rated network across all of cable (ahead of #3 CNN, #5 HGTV and #4 ESPN). For the 1st time on MSNBC, prime surpassed the 2 million mark averaging a record high 2.2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.8M) and beating CNN for the 4th straight year. Prime ranked #31 in cable rankings in 2015 and MSNBC has added 1.6M total viewers since then – a +270% increase. Compared to 2019, prime grew by +24%. In A25-54, prime averaged 372K viewers – a +29% increase compared to 2019.
MSNBC’s breaking news, special coverage and analysis during the day propelled the network to #2 network during one of the busiest news cycles in history for the 3rd year in a row (ahead of #3 CNN, and more than double #4 HGTV and #5Nickelodeon). Dayside finished ahead of CNN with a record high 1.3M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.3M) – a +28% increase compared to 2019. In A25-54, dayside drew a record-high 201K viewers, growing more than FOX News compared to 2019 (+48% vs. FOX News’ +41%). In December, dayside is beating FOX News in both A25-54 and total viewers for the 1st time since 2001.
Weekend total day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) capped 2020 with its strongest audience performance ever averaging a record 749K total viewers increasing viewership by +41% compared to 2019. In A25-54, weekend total day posted its best performance since 2017 with 125K viewers increasing viewership by +41% compared to 2019.
“Morning Joe” at 6am delivered its strongest audience performance ever this year and will finish December 2020 as the #1 cable news show in the timeslot in both total viewers and A25-54, dominating FOX News’ “FOX & Friends.” In 2020, “Morning Joe” broke a rating record with 1.36M total viewers, nearly double the CNN rating of 663K. “Morning Joe” has ranked #2 in total viewers for 11 straight years marking more than a decade of beating CNN in the timeslot. Compared to 2019, “Morning Joe” nearly doubled FOX News’ growth, increasing viewership by +23% (vs. FOX News’ +11%). In A25-54, “Morning Joe” delivered its best audience performance since 2018 with 221K viewers finishing ahead of CNN for the 5th straight year. “Morning Joe” also doubled FOX News’ growth in A25-54 increasing viewership by +22% (vs. FOX News’ +11%). Since the election, “Morning Joe” ranked #1 in total viewers or 5 weeks in a row (11/9, 11/16, 11/23, 11/30 and 12/7 and leads for a 6th 12/14) unseating FOX News for the 1st time since 2001.
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm was #1 in total viewers for the 4th consecutive year. “The 11th Hour” averaged 2.1M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 2M and CNN’s 1.2M). Since its premiere in 2016, “The 11th Hour” has more than doubled its ratings adding 1.24M total viewers. Compared to 2019, “The 11th Hour” grew its audience by +27%. In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” averaged 346Kviewers – a +33% increase compared to 2019. In December, “The 11th Hour” will finish #1 in total viewers for the 3rd month in a row, easily topping CNN for the 53rdmonth in a row and FOX News forthe 3rd month in a row.
“The Rachel Maddow Show” ends the year with a #1 finish in December topping FOX News for the 1st time since February 2019. “Maddow” drew 3.6M total viewers in December (vs. FOX News’ “Hannity” with 3.2M and CNN’s “Cuomo Primetime” with 2.3M). In 2020, “Maddow” capped the year with a record rating of 3.4M, the highest rating ever for an MSNBC regularly scheduled show. “Maddow” has beaten CNN for 11 straight years. Compared to 2019, “Maddow” increased viewership by +16%. “Maddow” also delivered its best audience performance in A25-54 since 2018 with an average 553K viewers – a +13% increase compared to 2019. In July, “Maddow” delivered its highest-rated show ever. The July 16 episode featuring Mary Trump’s 1st cable news interview scored the show’s highest-rated hour in history and was the highest-rated regularly scheduled show ever on MSNBC with 5.7M viewers, as well as the #1 show in prime for the day across all cable and broadcast.
Since the election (11/8), MSNBC is #1 in all of cable television for M-F 6am-2am and M-F 6am-6am. Several shows have finished at #1 in total viewers during this period including: “Deadline: White House” at 4pm, “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm, “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the last 5 weeks and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm for the last 3 weeks.
Several MSNBC shows hit total-viewer highs in 2020: “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” at 5am (467K); “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am (1.3M); “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson at 10am (1.2M); “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 11am (1.16M); “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm (1.3M); “MTP Daily/MSNBC Live” at 1pm (1.3M); “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm (1.3M); “MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin/Deadline: White House Special/MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi” at 3pm (1.4M); “Deadline: White House” at 4pm (2M); “Deadline: White House/MTP Daily” at 5pm (1.9M); “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm (1.8M); “The ReidOut/MSNBC Live/“Hardball” at 7pm (1.9M); “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm (2.1M) and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm (2.5M). On Saturdays the following MSNBC shows also hit total viewers highs: “MSNBC Live with Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser/MSNBC Live Weekend Edition” at 6am (483K) “VELSHI” at 8am (929K); “AM Joy/The Cross Connection” at 10am (1.3M); “Weekends with Alex Witt” at 12pm (1M), “MSNBC Live with Yasmin Vossoughian” at 3pm (977K); “PoliticsNation with Rev. Al Sharpton” at 5pm (1M), “American Voices with Alicia Menendez” at 6pm (970K) and “The Week with Joshua Johnson” at 8pm (1.1M) On Sundays, the following MSNBC shows also hit total viewers highs: “MSNBC Live with Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser/MSNBC Live Weekend Edition” at 6am (416K) “VELSHI” at 8am (723K); “AM Joy/The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart” at 10am (1M); “Weekends with Alex Witt” at 12pm (934K); “MSNBC Live with Yasmin Vossoughian” at 3pm (811K); “PoliticsNation” at 5pm (892K) “American Voices with Alicia Menendez” at 6pm (855K) and “The Week with Joshua Johnson” at 8pm (813K).
The following programs also beat CNN among total viewers: “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for the 4th straight year; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am topped CNN for the 4th straight year; “Deadline: White House/MTP Daily” from 4pm-6pm topped CNN for the 4th straight year; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm topped CNN for the 4th straight year; “The ReidOut/MSNBC Live/Hardball” at 7pm topped CNN for the 11th straight year; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm topped CNN for the 4th straight year; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 11th straight year; “VELSHI” Saturdays at 8am topped CNN for the first time since 2012 and “AM Joy/The Cross Connection” Saturdays at 10am topped CNN for the 4th straight year.
MSNBC launched brand new shows that made history this year, including “The ReidOut,” “Velshi,” “American Voices with Alicia Menendez,” “The Week with Joshua Johnson,” “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” and most recently, “The Cross Connection” and “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart”, all offering more diverse perspectives and reaching more audiences than ever before. The premiere of “The ReidOut” on July 20 hosted by Joy Reid drew a record 2.6M total viewers, topping FOX News (2.1M) and CNN (1.3M).
Audiences flocked to MSNBC for special Decision 2020 coverage this year. MSNBC’s election week coverage (11/2-11/8) was the highest-rated week in MSNBC’s 25-year-history, delivering a record shattering 3M total viewer (M-Su 6am-2am), according to Nielsen. In A25-54, election week scored 743K viewers, the highest-rated week since 3/17/03 (the week the Iraq War started). On Saturday (11/7), the speeches of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris drew a record 9M total viewers and 2.5M A25-54 viewers on MSNBC from 8:28pm-9pm, marking the highest-rated program in MSNBC’s history. MSNBC’s special Decision 2020 coverage on Saturday (11/7) topped FOX News every hour from 8am-3am in total viewers and A25-54, including a special edition of “Morning Joe” from 8am-1pm. This was the highest-rated Saturday in MSNBC history and the 2nd highest-rated day ever behind Election Day 11/3/20.
MSNBC provided real-time coverage, fact-checks and analysis of major Decision 2020 moments including both the 2020 Democratic National Convention and Republican Convention. MSNBC was the most-watched network across all of television in total viewers for the DNC (Aug. 17-Aug. 20), sweeping each night during prime (8pm-11pm), delivering the network’s highest-rated week ever in prime and unseating CNN as the highest-rated network during the Democratic National Convention. MSNBC drew a record 4.9M average viewers during the four nights of coverage in prime dominating all competitors by at least +700K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 3.6M, CNN’s 4.2M). Where all networks competed head-to-head (10-11:15pm), MSNBC’s 5.9M delivery among total viewers led ABC News’ 2.6M, CBS News’ 2.0M as well as CNN 5.2M and Fox News 2.4M.
For the 3rd consecutive year, MSNBC (M-Su 6am-2am) was the #1 cable network in African-American viewership. MSNBC delivered 343K African American total viewers (ahead of BET, ESPN, CNN and VH1), up +36% over 2019. MSNBC also delivered a record rating in both Hispanic and Asian-American total viewers during the M-Su 6am-2am block.
MSNBC digital reach has grown in 2020 increasing viewership by +41% compared to 2019, according to Comscore Media Metrix. MSNBC digital video viewership and engagement has spiked in 2020 with an average of 167M monthly video views marking the strongest year on record and up +47% 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 +452% on average. Viewers of the MSNBC political news set watch for an average 45 minutes per viewer, nearly 3x more than CNN (16 minutes) and more than 2.5x that of FOX News (18 minutes).
NOTE: Year-end ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 12/30/2019-12/16/2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news
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