April 2020 Ratings: MSNBC Delivers Largest Total Day Audience in Network History

By A.J. Katz 

MSNBC posted year-over-year growth in multiple dayparts and registered its largest total audience in total day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) in network history, averaging nearly 1.3 million total day viewers during the month of April.

It also defeated rival CNN in total prime-time viewers, and saw one of its most popular shows, Morning Joe, set a record in total viewership with an average of 1.4 million tuning into the program each weekday morning.

However, the network may be a bit disappointed to see that it finished behind CNN in the key A25-54 demo and in total day viewers. MSNBC hadn’t finished behind CNN in total day viewers in three years.


Compared to the prior month (March 2020), MSNBC was +2% in total day viewers, but -8% in prime-time viewers. There was even more of a decline in the prime-time demo: -16%. The network was -2% in the total day demo.

Compared to the same month one year ago (April 2019), one which did not feature wall-to-wall coverage of a global pandemic and daily presidential briefings, MSNBC will finish April 2020 +23% in total prime-time viewers, +40% in total day viewers, +32% in the prime-time demo and +53% in the total day demo.

MSNBC has built up its news programming on weekends in recent months and saw some payoff in April: +67% in total viewers and +72% in the key demo versus April 2019.

The average impressions for April 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun):  2,038,000 total viewers / 336,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,284,000 total viewers / 216,000 A25-54

Several MSNBC shows hit total viewer highs in April, including the MSNBC Live hours hosted by Stephanie Ruhle, Craig Melvin and Katy Tur, Andrea Mitchell Reports, as well as Deadline: White House hosted by Nicolle Wallace, Meet the Press Daily and AM Joy.

In prime time, The Rachel Maddow Show topped CNN for the 83rd straight month in Total Viewers, but finished third in the 9 p.m. hour behind Cuomo Prime Time and Hannity in the key A25-54 demo. TRMS wasn’t exactly helped by its lead-in this month.

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell topped CNN for the 59th straight month in Total Viewers, but finished in third behind Fox News and CNN in the demo. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams at 11 p.m. topped CNN for the 45th straight month in Total Viewers, but did not come out victorious in the demo.

Here is MSNBC’s ratings release for April:



In April, MSNBC covered all angles of the coronavirus pandemic with breaking news and analysis along with multiple specials, posting its highest monthly total-viewer deliveries in network history for total day (M-Su 6am-6am), “Morning Joe” (M-F 6am-9am), and dayside (M-F 9am-5pm), according to Nielsen. MSNBC’s programming during prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) ranked #2 among all cable networks for the 3rd straight month, averaging 2.5 million total viewers (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 HGTV, and #5 History).

• Total day achieved the highest total-viewer delivery ever averaging 1.3 million viewers and increased viewership by +40% compared to April 2019. In A25-54, total day averaged 220,000 viewers,.

• Dayside averaged 1.6 million total viewers and was up +59% compared to April 2019. In A25-54 dayside delivered 259,000 viewers, posted its best performance since April 2003 and increased viewership by +103% compared to April 2019.

• MSNBC prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) was the #2 ranked network among all of cable in total viewers. Prime drew an average 2.5 million total viewers (vs. CNN’s 2.2M), topping CNN for the 41st month in a row. Compared to April 2019 MSNBC prime was up +18% in total viewers.

• “Morning Joe” at 6am delivered record-breaking viewership in April with 1.4 million viewers tuning in, the highest in MSNBC history for the time period. “Morning Joe” ranked #2 ahead of CNN in total viewers for the 62nd straight month and for the 30th straight month in A25-54.

• Several MSNBC shows hit total-viewer highs in April including: “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am (1.5M); “MSNBC Live” at 10am(1.4M); “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin/MSNBC Press Conference” at 11am (1.4M); “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm (1.6M); “MSNBC Live/MSNBC Special Coverage” at 1pm (1.4M); “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur/MSNBC Live” at 2pm (1.5M); “MSNBC Live/Deadline: White House Special/MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi” at 3pm (1.6M); “Deadline: White House” at 4pm(2.3M); Meet the Press Daily” at 5pm (2M) and “AM Joy” Saturdays at 10am (1.5M).

• In total viewers, “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for 39th straight month; “Deadline: White House” at 4pm topped CNN for the 31st straight month; “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm topped CNN for the 83rd straight month; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 59th straight month and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm topped CNN for the 45th straight month.

• MSNBC has covered the coronavirus pandemic with multiple special reports including: “Morning Joe’s” “Special Report: Isolation Nation,” “A Special Edition of The Last Word: Life in the Time of Coronavirus,” a four-part series co-hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell and Dr. Ezekiel, Emanuel, “America on Pause,” hosted by Nicolle Wallace and “Craig Melvin Reports: Coronavirus Pandemic.” Additionally, “MSNBC Special Report: Testing & The Road to Reopening” hosted by Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace on April 27 was #1 in total viewers at 11pm, topping FOX News and CNN.

• The “One World: Together At Home” broadcast airing on MSNBC and other networks was the highest-rated non-news program in MSNBC history for Saturday prime, topping CNN and drawing 1.7M viewers all tuning in to see the cast of stars in support of those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• MSNBC weekend viewership (Sa-Sun 6am-6am) was up +67% compared to April 2019 in total viewers and up 72% in A25-54.

NOTE: April 2020 ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 03/30/2020-4/26/2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials