Jan. 2020 Ratings: MSNBC Finishes No. 2 In Basic Cable, Rachel Maddow Delivers Most-Watched Show Ever

By A.J. Katz Comment

MSNBC was the 2nd-most-watched network in basic cable during the opening month of 2020.

Jan. 2020 was dominated be wall-to-wall political news, and MSNBC was able to top rival CNN (and every basic cable network not named Fox News) among total viewers in all key dayparts, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day data.

Additionally, the historic Senate impeachment trial, which aired primarily during daytime hours, propelled MSNBC to No.1 in all of television – both broadcast and cable networks – in total viewers on Wednesday-Friday from 1-5 p.m. ET, during coverage and analysis. However, MSNBC finished behind Fox News in prime time and on other days of the week.

Despite those big numbers for MSNBC, the network lost a good deal of traction in Jan. 2020 when compared with Jan. 2019.  It was -13% in total prime time viewership, -12% in total day viewership, -18% in the prime time demo, and -21% in the total day demo.

It’s worth remembering, however,  that MSNBC was the most-watched network on all of cable television in Jan. 2019. Matching that performance this month was always going to be tough.

Here are the ratings for Jan. 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,715,000 total viewers / 286,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  996,000 total viewers /  156,000 A25-54

Morning Joe doubled CNN, and finished ahead of CNN in A25-54 (182,000 vs. CNN’s 133,000). January marked the 59th straight month Morning Joe beat CNN in total viewers and the 27th straight month “Morning Joe beat CNN in A25-54. However, MJ remains in second place among the cable morning newsers, behind Fox & Friends.

For all of January, The Rachel Maddow Show finished behind Hannity, but beat CNN in the 9 p.m. time period for the 80th consecutive month in total viewers and 36th consecutive month in A25-54. Additionally, Maddow’s interview with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas on Jan. 15th delivered a record-breaking 4.5 million total viewers and 844,000 viewers A25-54. The episode of TRMS was the program’s most-watched ever.

Additionally, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams at 11 p.m. ET dominated CNN for the 42nd month in a row more than doubling CNN’s viewership. In A25-54, The 11th Hour beat CNN for the 14th month in a row. Still, the program finished behind Fox News in both categories, after regularly averaging more total viewers than Fox News in the hour last year.

Here’s MSNBC’s ratings press release for Jan. 2020:

 MSNBC DOMINATES CNN AMID BREAKING NEWS CYCLE IN JANUARY, DAYSIDE IS AGAIN #2 ACROSS ALL OF CABLE
“Morning Joe” Doubles CNN in Total Viewers, Tops CNN for the 59th Month in a Row and in A25-54 for the 27th Month in A Row
MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) and Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Continue to Lead CNN in Total Viewers
“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm Bests CNN in Total Viewers for the 80th Straight Month and in A25-54 for the 36th Straight Month
“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm More Than Doubles CNN’s Total Audience, Tops CNN in Total Viewers for the 56th Month in a Row and in A25-54 for the Last 12 Months
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm Beats CNN in Total Viewers for the 42nd Straight Month and in A25-54 for the 14th Straight Month
Every Weekday Hour Between 5am-3am Beats CNN Among Total Viewers
Senate Impeachment Trial Drives MSNBC to #1 in All of Television (W-F from 1pm-5pm) During Breaking News and Analysis
NEW YORK (January 29, 2020) – In a month that has been dominated by around-the-clock breaking and political news, MSNBC topped CNN among total viewers in all key dayparts, according to Nielsen. For the month, MSNBC dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) was the #2 cable network for the 18th straight month (ahead of ESPN #4 and CNN #3), easily topping CNN for the 28th month in a row (1.1M vs CNN’s 860,000).
MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am) averaged 1M total viewers, topping CNN by 251,000. MSNBC prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) ranked #2 for the 38th month in a row in total viewers and dominated CNN in total viewers (2.2M vs. CNN’s 1.5M).
Additionally, the historic Senate impeachment trial, which aired primarily during dayside, propelled MSNBC to #1 in all of television – both broadcast and cable networks – in total viewers (W-F 1/22-1/24 from 1pm-5pm) during coverage and analysis. Throughout the Senate impeachment trial, MSNBC prime was a leading source of analysis: for the five days of the trial (1/21-1/25) MSNBC prime analysis during breaks in the Senate debate drew 984,000 more viewers than CNN during each night of the Senate debate, topping CNN viewership by +88%. During the 1st five days of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (1/21- 1/25) more viewers turned to MSNBC for analysis than CNN. While the trial was live, during the five-day period, MSNBC analysis during breaks in the Senate debate topped CNN’s analysis in total viewers by 523,000 viewers or +52%.
“Morning Joe” continued to lead CNN in the mornings at 6am, doubling CNN in total viewers (1.1M vs. CNN’s 540,000) and finishing ahead of CNN in A25-54 (182,000 vs. CNN’s 133,000). January marked the 59th straight month “Morning Joe” beat CNN in total viewers and the 27th straight month “Morning Joe” beat CNN in A25-54.
For all of January, “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the #2 program in all of cable news for the 11th month in a row among total viewers and for the 2nd month in a row in A25-54. “Maddow” beat CNN in the 9pm time period for the 80th consecutive month in total viewers and 36th consecutive month in A25-54. “Maddow” averaged 3.1M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.2M) and 533,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 331,000). Additionally, “Maddow’s” explosive, exclusive interview with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas on Jan. 15th scored a record-breaking 4.5M total viewers and 844,000 viewers A25-54, ranking #1 across all of cable and topping FOX News by more than half a million total viewers. The episode of “Maddow” was the program’s highest-rated show ever in total viewers. “Maddow” also more than tripled CNN in total viewers and topped CNN by more than 500,000 in A25-54.
“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm more than doubled CNN’s total audience with 2.2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.1M) topping CNN for the last 56th months. “The Last Word” topped CNN for the 12th consecutive month with 342,000 viewers (vs. CNN’s 309,000).
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm dominated CNN for the 42nd month in a row more than doubling CNN’s viewership with 1.6M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 793,000). In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” dominated CNN for the 14th month in a row with 284,000 viewers (vs. CNN’s 248,000). “The 11th Hour” ranked #2 in the hour in both total viewers and A25-54.
In January, every weekday MSNBC program from 5am-3am beat CNN in total viewers: “Morning Joe First Look” at 5am for the 27th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am for the 36th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am for the 28th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 11am for the 28th straight month; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm for the 31st straight month; “MSNBC Live with Velshi & Ruhle” at 1pm for the 27th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm for the 15thstraight month; “MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi” at 3pm for the 27th straight month; “Deadline: White House” with Nicolle Wallace at 4pm for the 28th straight month; “MTP Daily” at 5pm for the 33rd straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 31st straight month, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at 7pm for the 42nd straight month and “All in with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 38th straight month.
On Saturdays, “AM Joy” at 10am beat CNN for the 28th month in a row in total viewers. On Sundays, “AM Joy” at 10am beat CNN for the 14th straight month in total viewers and “Kasie DC” at 7pm beat CNN for the 22nd consecutive month. “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton” on Sundays at 5pm delivered its best month since October 2018 in total viewers and A25-54, averaging 696,000 in total viewers and 131,000 in A25-54.
NOTE: January 2020 ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for December 30, 2019 – January 26, 2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.
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