Aug. ’21 Ratings: MSNBC Is No. 2 Basic Cable Network for 6th Straight Month, But Sees Audience Losses From July

By A.J. Katz 

For MSNBC, there was good and there was, well, not-so-good. The good: MSNBC finished No. 2 during primetime across all of cable television (ahead of No. 6 CNN and only behind Fox News). During total day, MSNBC also averaged the second-most total viewers of any basic cable network for the 6th consecutive month.

The not-so-good: MSNBC saw audience losses in each key daypart and audience category from the previous month, and once again finished behind CNN in the key A25-54 demographic.

Compared to July 2021, MSNBC shed -6% in average total primetime viewers and -3% in the key demo.  The network also shed -5% in total day viewers and -7% in the total day demo. It seems MSNBC viewers weren’t quite as interested in the Afghanistan conflict, and the network in general this month.


Compared to the year-ago month (Aug. 2020). MSNBC shed -44% of its average primetime audience, -54% of its primetime demo, -41% in total day viewers and half of its total day demo (-50%). To be fair, Aug. 2020 featured coverage of the Democratic National Convention, an event which gave MSNBC its largest average primetime August audience ever.

The average impressions for Aug. 2021 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 1,229,000 total viewers / 163,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.):  732,000 total viewers / 96,000 A25-54

On the programming front — Despite taking a couple of weeks off, The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. ranked No. 2 in the hour for the 3rd straight month in total viewers, topping CNN for the 99th consecutive month. In A25-54, TRMS ranked No. 2 in the hour for the 6th straight month, and beat CNN for the 7th consecutive month. That said, The Rachel Maddow Show finished behind more Fox News shows than usual this month (we’ll get to that in a future post).

Additionally, Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace from 4pm-6pm beat CNN in total viewers for the 51st straight month; The Beat with Ari Melber at 6pm for the 16th straight month; The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell at 10pm beat CNN in total viewers for the 75th straight month and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams at 11pm beat CNN in total viewers for the 61st straight month.

Yet, as previously mentioned, the aforementioned shows (with the exception of Rachel Maddow) couldn’t out-perform CNN when it came to adults 25-54.

Here’s the network’s ratings press release for Aug. 2021:


MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Early Fringe (M-F 5pm-8pm) and Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) All Rank #2 Across Cable TV 

“Morning Joe” is #2 Among All Cable Networks, Dominates CNN for the 78th Month in a Row

“The Rachel Maddow Show” Beats CNN for the 99th Straight Month in Total Viewers and 7th Straight Month in A25-54  

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an Average 317Minutes Per Week, Nearly Doubling CNN’s Engagement 

MSNBC Digital Outpaces CNN Politics in Video, Finishes #1 in the Politics Sub-Category for 29 Consecutive Months

MSNBC Total Day, Prime, Early Fringe and Weekend News Day (Sa-Su 6am-3pm) Top Cable News in African American Viewership

NEW YORK (August 31, 2021) – In August, MSNBC prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) topped CNN across both total viewers and A25-54, according to Nielsen. MSNBC’s coverage and analysis during prime finished #2 across all of cable television (ahead of #6 CNN).

For the 2nd straight month, MSNBC prime ranked #2 among all cable networks (ahead of #3 HGTV, #6 CNN and #11 ESPN) averaging 1.6M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 872K). MSNBC ranked #2 among cable news networks in A25-54 for the 4th straight month with 211K viewers (vs. CNN’s 208K).

During total day, MSNBC drew 741K viewers (vs. CNN’s 627K) finishing as the #2 network across all of cable television (ahead of #3 HGTV, #4 CNN and #14 ESPN) for the 6th consecutive month.

Early fringe programming (M-F 5pm-8pm) also dominated CNN among total viewers with 1.2M vs. CNN’s 817K and ranked #2 in the time period among all cable networks. In A25-54, MSNBC averaged 154K viewers.

MSNBC dayside (9am-4pm) averaged 758K total viewers.

August marks the 4th straight month that “Morning Joe” (6am-9am) ranked #2 among all cable networks (ahead of #3 CNN, #9 HGTV and #14 ESPN). In total viewers, “Morning Joe” averaged 842K easily topping CNN’s 439K for the 78th month in a row. “Morning Joe” ranked #3 in A25-54 among all cable networks (ahead of #7 CNN, #14 HGTV and #5 ESPN) drawing 101K viewers while CNN only had 90K viewers. “Morning Joe” also led cable news among diverse audiences. “Morning Joe” ranked #1 across all of cable television among African American viewership (187K), ahead of #2 CNN (118K) and #29 FOX News (21K).

“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm ranked #2 in the hour for the 3rd straight month in total viewers, topping CNN for the 99th consecutive month. “Maddow” dominated CNN in total viewers (2.2M vs. CNN’s 941K). In A25-54, “Maddow” ranked #2 in the hour for the 6th straight month topping CNN for the 7th consecutive month. “Maddow” averaged 285K A25-54 viewers vs. CNN’s 218K.

The following shows topped CNN for the month in total viewers, including: “Way Too Early” at 5am for the 7th straight month; “Stephanie Ruhle Reports’’ at 9am for the 55th straight month; “Hallie Jackson Reports” at 10am for the 7th straight month; “Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm for the 51st straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 16th straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the 7th straight month; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 7th straight month; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm for the 75th straight month and “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams” at 11pm for the 61st straight month.

MSNBC has held the #1 position in the Politics Sub-Category for 29 consecutive months in both video views and total minutes, according to Comscore through July 2021. From January to July, MSNBC monthly unique visitors are up +13% year-over-year compared with the same time period in 2020. Since January, MSNBC averaged 134M monthly video views in 2021, far outpacing CNN Politics (59M) and FOX News Politics (17M). MSNBC video viewers have watched for an average 36 minutes in 2021, +99% longer than CNN Politics and more than double Fox News Politics. In addition, the last four months have been MSNBC Daily’s best on record, surpassing election month, with August on track to be one of its top months ever.

Across all of cable networks, MSNBC was the #2 network in African American viewership in total day (ahead of #3 CNN and #40 FOX News), prime (ahead of #3 CNN and #32 FOX News) and weekend news day (Sa-Su 6am-3pm) (ahead of #3 CNN and #47 FOX News). During early fringe, MSNBC ranked #1 in African American viewership across all cable networks (ahead of #2 CNN and #25 FOX News).

Viewers watched MSNBC for more minutes per week than CNN. During full day (M-Su 6am-2am), viewers watched MSNBC for an average 317 minutes per week (vs. CNN’s 184 minutes).

NOTE: August ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 07/26/2021-08/29/2021. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news. 

Source: Comscore Multiplatform Media & Video Metrix, January – July 2021, Comscore Politics News/Information Sub-Category.