Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz, By The Numbers

By Chris Ariens 

When Ed Schultz moves to 5pm next week on MSNBC, he’ll be taking over a timeslot held by “Hardball” for the last 8 years (as well as an earlier stint at 5pm in 2000-2001). “Hardball” is MSNBC’s longest running show. In fact, it’s older than the network itself having first premiered on CNBC in 1997. (Matthews’ association with NBC goes back even further to 1994 when he hosted a politics show on America’s Talking.) “Hardball” now gets one airing, at 7pmET.

We wanted to know how the viewership has been for the two airings recently.

  • Matthews at 5pm is watched by more viewers than at 7pm. At 5pm the average for the quarter-to-date is 602,000 total viewers. At 7pm, the average is 533,000 total viewers. The 7pm edition is a reair of the 5pm version most nights, and there are undoubtedly repeat viewers. Still, if added together (as other hosts whose shows reair like to do — Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on Fox News among them) — the two airings make “Hardball” MSNBC’s most watched daily program.
  • While the 5pm edition scores more total viewers than at 7, the later edition of “Hardball” draws more younger viewers: 141,000 at 7 vs. 128,000 at 5, so far this quarter. And that pattern is true for all of 2013.

Schultz’s return to Monday through Friday, is — like nearly all decisions in cable news — for ratings. In his final quarter in the 8pmET timelsot (Q1 2013), the populist radio-turned-TV talker averaged 909,000 total viewers (this included a strong January for all of MSNBC). His replacement at 8pm, Chris Hayes is averaging 509,000 so far in Q3. Among younger viewers, Schultz averaged 208,000 in Q1, while Hayes is drawing 145,000 in Q3. MSNBC would be thrilled if Schultz can bring his 8pm numbers to 5pm.

The final “Harball with Chris Matthews” at 5pm has already aired — yesterday. Michael Smerconish is filling in tonight, and there will be a two-hour “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton” pre-empting the 7pm edition of “Hardball.”