How did MSNBC perform in Q3 of 2020? Well, it averaged its more viewers for a quarter than at any point in its 24-year history. The network averaged an impressive 2.1 million total viewers in prime time, No. 2 overall on cable TV.
Also, whereas Fox News and CNN posted losses from Q2, MSNBC actually saw +6% growth in total prime time viewership vs. the previous quarter . The network was +3% in the prime time demo. However, it remained steady in total day viewers and was -6% in adults 25-54.
NBC’s politics-focused network received a significant boost from its record-setting cable coverage of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
MSNBC continues to see more success in drawing older viewers, and less so with the under-55 set. In fact, despite setting total quarterly viewership records, the network continues to play third fiddle when it comes to attracting the key A25-54 demo, finishing behind Fox News and CNN among adults 25-54.
How did the network trend vs. Q3 of 2019, Similar to the competition, MSNBC posted double digit growth: +39% in total prime time viewers, +37% in total day viewers, +43% in the prime time demo and +41% in the total day demo.
What about Q3 of 2016? MSNBC grew much more in overall audience than it did among viewers 25-54. The network was +73% in total prime time viewers, +79% in total day viewers, but just +10% in the prime time demo and +8% in the total day demo.
The ratings for Q3, 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):
- Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,122,000 total viewers / 326,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,207,000 total viewers /181,000 A25-54
On the programming front, it was Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, and Nicolle Wallace who stood out.
The Rachel Maddow Show had its most-watched quarter ever (3.3 million viewers – No. 5 on cable news), and it delivered its highest-rated show ever in July. The July 16th episode featuring Mary Trump’s first cable news interview scored the show’s highest-rated hour in history and was the highest-rated regularly scheduled show ever on MSNBC with 5.7 million total viewers.
Wallace was No. 1 in total viewers at 4 p.m. for the quarter, and Williams was No. 1 in total viewers at 11 p.m. He also had his most-watched quarter ever.
Joy Reid launched a new show in the 7 p.m. hour, which has started out No. 2 in the time slot in total viewers, but third in the key demo.
MSNBC edged CNN in the prime time demo in September 2020 by a slim margin (312,000 vs. 311), but maintained a commanding lead over CNN in average total viewership, (2.06 million vs. 1.34 million). That said, the network remained behind CNN in the total day demo (172,000 vs. 206,000), and of course, also behind Fox News in all relevant measurements.
Relative to August 2020 (which featured a convention), MSNBC was -6% in total prime time viewers, -6% in total day viewers, -13% in the prime time demo and -11% in total day demo this past month.
The ratings for Sept. 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):
- Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,061,000 total viewers / 312,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,168,000 total viewers / 172,000 A25-54
Here’s the MSNBC ratings press release:
MSNBC BREAKS QUARTERLY RATINGS RECORDS, DOMINATES CNN AND POSTS DOUBLE-DIGIT GROWTH AMONG TOTAL VIEWERS IN 3Q20
“Morning Joe” Scores Largest Lead Over CNN Ever in Total Viewers and Bests CNN in A25-54
Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) Delivers Highest-Rated Quarter in Total Viewers
Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) and Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) Post Double-Digit Growth, Growing Faster than FOX News
MSNBC is the #2-Rated Cable Network in Total Viewers Across Total Day, Prime and Dayside
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” is #1 in Total Viewers, Scores Highest-Rated Quarter Ever, Bests CNN for the 16th Straight Quarter
“The Rachel Maddow Show” Scores Best Delivery Ever in Total Viewers, Tops CNN for the 44th Quarter in a Row
MSNBC Digital Reach and Video Viewership Grows in 2020, Achieves Strongest Year to Date
NEW YORK (September 29, 2020) – MSNBC closes a quarter dominated by major breaking news and Decision 2020 coverage by shattering quarterly ratings records and posting double-digit growth across key dayparts, according to Nielsen. Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) delivered the highest-rated quarter for the time period in network history among total viewers.
Prime drew a record-breaking 2.2M total viewers in 3Q20, posting the best delivery in the time period ever and easily topping CNN’s 1.6M. MSNBC ranked #2 during prime across all cable networks for the 3rd quarter in a row (ahead of #3 CNN, #5 HGTV and #7 ESPN) and topped CNN for 15th quarter in a row.
Total day ranked #2 across all cable networks (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 HGTV and #8 ESPN) for the 7th straight quarter averaging 1.1M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 977K). Total day also bested CNN for the 14th straight quarter in total viewers. Compared to 3Q19, total day grew by +37% in total viewers (vs. FOX News’ +28%) and +42% in A25-54 (vs. FOX News’ +31%).
Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) averaged 1.3M total viewers and doubled FOX News’ growth compared to 3Q19 (+43% vs. FOX News’ +20%). In A25-54, dayside more than doubled FOX News’ growth with +62% (vs. FOX News’ +26%) compared to 3Q19. Dayside also ranked #2 across all cable networks for the quarter.
“Morning Joe” delivered MSNBC’s largest lead over CNN ever among total viewers in the 6am-9am time slot with 1.34M–more than +734K over CNN. In total viewers, “Morning Joe” beat CNN for the 22nd consecutive quarter. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” beat CNN for the 14th consecutive quarter (214K vs. CNN’s 138K). “Morning Joe” more than tripled FOX News’ growth compared to 3Q19 (+31% vs. FOX News’ +8%). In A25-54, “Morning Joe” increased viewership by +32% while FOX News remained flat (+2%).
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” ranked #1 at 11pm and delivered its best viewer performance ever in the time period. “The 11th Hour” scored a record-breaking 2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1M and FOX News’ 1.96M) topping CNN for the 16th straight quarter. In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” posted its best delivery since 2Q18, topped CNN and was up +51% compared to 3Q19 (vs. FOX News’ +50%). In total viewers, “The 11th Hour” also grew more than FOX News, increasing viewership by +41% compared to 3Q19 (vs. FOX News’ +39%).
“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm posted its best quarter delivery ever among total viewers in the time period averaging 3.5M (vs. CNN’s 1.7M). “Maddow” ranked #2 in the hour for the 44th straight quarter and increased viewership by +31% compared to 3Q19 among total viewers. In A25-54, “Maddow” averaged 537K viewers (vs. CNN’s 419K) and increased viewership by +28% compared to 3Q19. Additionally, “Maddow” delivered its highest-rated show ever in July. The July 16th episode featuring Mary Trump’s first 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.
Several MSNBC shows hit total-viewer highs in 3Q20, including: “Deadline: White House\MTP Daily” from 4pm-6pm (2M); “The ReidOut\MSNBC Live” at 7pm (1.9M); “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm (2M); “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary on MSNBC this month (2.5M), and “Velshi” at 8am on Sunday (691K).
The following programs also beat CNN among total viewers: “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for the 15th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am topped CNN for the 14th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 11am topped CNN for the quarter; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm topped CNN for the quarter; “MTP Daily\MSNBC Live” at 1pm topped CNN for the quarter; “MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin\Deadline: White House Special” at 3pm topped CNN for the quarter; “Deadline: White House\MTP Daily” from 4pm-6pm topped CNN for the 13th straight quarter; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm topped CNN for the 13th straight quarter; “The ReidOut\MSNBC Live” at 7pm topped CNN for the quarter; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm topped CNN for the 15th straight quarter and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 21st straight quarter.
Throughout the 3rd quarter of 2020, 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 most-watched 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.
MSNBC digital reach has grown in 2020 increasing viewership by +42% compared to 2019, according to Comscore Media Metrix. MSNBC digital video viewership and engagement has spiked in 2020 with an average of 160M monthly video views marking the strongest year on record and up +41% compared to 2019 in full. MSNBC’s video views within the political news competitive set ranks at #1 throughout 2020 topping CNN politics by +124% and FOX News politics by +500% on average. Viewers of the MSNBC political news set watch for an average 45 minutes per viewer, 3x more than CNN (15 minutes) and more than 2x that of FOX News (17 minutes).
NOTE: 3Q20 ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 06/29/20-9/27/20. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news. Starting with Sep 2020 data, program ratings include Out of Home viewing.
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