April 2021 Ratings: MSNBC Loses Prime Time Viewers, But Remains Second-Most-Watched Cable Network

By A.J. Katz 

In April 2021, MSNBC drew nearly 1.6 million total viewers, 227,000 adults 25-54 in prime time, 953,000 total day viewers, and 138,000 viewers in the demo during total day.

What does that mean? That represents a -12% dip in total prime time viewers, and a -4% drop among adults 25-54 in prime vs. the previous month. The network lost -7% of its total day audience, but actually gained +7% in the demo during total day. Like CNN, MSNBC benefited greatly from airing the Derek Chauvin murder trial in dayside, an event that brought younger news viewers to the network during daytime hours.

Additionally, MSNBC shed -22% of its total prime time audience, -32% of its A25-54 prime time audience, -26% of its total day viewership, and was -36% in the total day demo from April 2020, which, to be fair, was MSNBC’s most-watched month ever in total day.


The year-over-year ratings trend for MSNBC wasn’t pretty, and that will likely continue to be the case as we approach summer.

Yes, MSNBC viewership is dipping in the Biden era, as we expected, but it remains the second-most-watched network on cable television. That was unheard of during the prior Democratic administration.

MSNBC beat CNN in total viewers, but finished third behind Fox News and CNN among adults 25-54.

The average Nielsen live + same day impressions for April 2021:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,581,000 total viewers / 227,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 953,000 total viewers / 138,000 A25-54

The Rachel Maddow Show slipped to No. 4 on cable news in April, edged by Hannity (2.71 vs. 2.73 million total viewers), as well The Five and Tucker Carlson Tonight in total viewers. TRMS also finished No. 4 in April among adults 25-54.

Morning Joe, after dominating post-election and the early part of the year, slipped to second place in total viewers and among adults 25-54. Additionally, each weekday show (4 p.m.-Midnight) beat CNN in total viewers.

MSNBC’s press releases, where it stresses beating CNN in prime time:


“The Rachel Maddow Show” Finishes #1 in the Hour for the 5th Month in a Row, Beats CNN in A25-54 

MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm), Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and Early Fringe (M-F 4-8pm) Rank #2 Across All Cable Networks 

“Morning Joe” More Than Doubles CNN’s Total Audience, Tops CNN for the 74th Straight Month in Total Viewers and 42nd Straight Month in A25-54 

Every Weekday Hour from 4pm-12am Beat CNN Among Total Viewers 

MSNBC is #1 Among Diverse Audiences—Topping All Cable Networks in African American Viewership As Well As Cable News in Asian American Pacific Islander and Hispanic Viewership During Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm)

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an Average 370 Minutes Per Week, More Than FOX News and CNN

MSNBC Digital Outpaces CNN Politics in Video, Finishes #1 in the Politics Sub-Category for 25 Straight Months

NEW YORK (April 27, 2021) – MSNBC again dominated CNN and ranked #2 across all of cable television among total viewers in April for the 2nd month in a row, according to Nielsen. As the nation grapples with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the ongoing discussion of policing in America and the Derek Chauvin trial, viewers turned to MSNBC for first-rate breaking news and analysis.

During prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm), MSNBC finished #2 across all of cable television among total viewers for the 4th month in a row, while CNN finished #5 (vs. HGTV #3 and TBS #4). MSNBC’s primetime perspective and analysis drew 1.6M total viewers, leading CNN by more than 576K. In A25-54, prime averaged 233K viewers.

Total day ranked #2 among all cable networks (ahead of #3 CNN and #4 HGTV) for the 2nd consecutive month with 963K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 790K). April marks the 3rd month in a row MSNBC has topped CNN in total viewers during total day. In A25-54, total day averaged 140K viewers.

Dayside (9am-4pm) ranked #2 across all of cable among total viewers, tying CNN with 1.023M total viewers. In A25-54, dayside drew 148K viewers.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm continues its reign over FOX News for the 5th straight month. “Maddow” finished #1 with 2.82M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 2.78M. and CNN’s 1.3M). In A25-54, “Maddow” topped CNN for the 3rd straight month with 413K viewers (vs. CNN’s 343K).

“Morning Joe” from 6am-9am more than doubled CNN’s total audience with 1.07M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 514K), beating CNN for the 74th straight month. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” averaged 154K viewers (vs. CNN’s 128K), topping CNN for the 42nd straight month.

Every hour of MSNBC’s programming from 4pm-12am topped CNN in total viewers, including: “Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm for the 46th straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 12 straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the 3rd straight month; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 3rd straight month; “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm for the 95th straight month; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm for the 71st straight month and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm for the 57th straight month.

MSNBC led cable news in diverse audiences, ranking as the #1 network among African American, Asian American Pacific Islander and Hispanic viewers during prime (M-F 8pm-11pm). Across all of cable networks, MSNBC was also the #1 network in African American viewership. Among total viewers, MSNBC drew 462K African American viewers, 84K Asian American Pacific Islander viewers and 93K Hispanic viewers.

Viewers watched MSNBC longer per week than FOX News or CNN. During full day (M-Su6am-2am), viewers watched MSNBC for an average 370 minutes per week (vs. FOX News’ 343 minutes and CNN’s 218 minutes). During prime (M-F 8pm-11pm), viewers watched MSNBC for an average 138 minutes per week (vs. FOX News’ 126 minutes and CNN’s 67 minutes).

MSNBC has held the #1 position in the Politics Sub-Category for 25 consecutive months in both video views and total minutes, according to Comscore through March 2021. MSNBC has averaged 153M monthly video views, far outpacing CNN Politics (92M) and Fox News Politics (23M). MSNBC in Q1 2021 is up double-digits year-over-year with monthly video views up +16% versus Q1 2020. MSNBC video viewers have watched for an average 37 minutes in 2021, +75% longer than CNN Politics and more than double Fox News Politics.

NOTE: April ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 3/29/21-4/25/21. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.

Comscore Multiplatform Video Metrix, January – March 2021, Comscore Politics News/Information Sub-Category.