January ’22 Ratings: MSNBC Is Top 5 on Basic Cable, but Loses Viewers From Prior Month and Prior Year

By A.J. Katz 

As was the case for CNN, MSNBC experienced a mixed month on the Nielsen ratings front. Yes, it remained the second-most-watched network on all of basic cable, in total day and ranked No. 4 network in primetime, up from No. 6 in December.

However, despite beating CNN in total viewers on weekdays for the 12th consecutive month, the network came up short to CNN in adults 25-54, on weekends, lost viewers in multiple measurements from December 2021 and even more viewers relative to January 2021. In fact, relative to Jan. 2021, MSNBC shed -56% of average total primetime audience and -60% of its average total day audience, -78% in the prime time demo and -75% in the total day demo. Now to be fair, Jan. 2021 was MSNBC’s most-watched month ever in total day viewers. It featured a presidential inauguration and the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, and MSNBC’s live coverage of both events attracted huge audiences. There was no way that MSNBC was going to match those year-ago numbers this past month, especially not in an off-election year.

Relative to Dec. 2021, MSNBC shed -3% in total primetime viewers, -3% in the primetime demo, -3% in total day viewers, and held steady in the total day demo.


The average impressions for Jan. 2022 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 1,150,000 total viewers / 130,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.):  656,000 total viewers / 74,000 A25-54

On the programming front—The Rachel Maddow Show finished No. 2 in her timeslot. The network’s signature program has averaged a larger total audience than its CNN competition for 104 consecutive months—and 12 consecutive months among adults 25-54. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell beat its 10 p.m. CNN competition for the 80th consecutive month in average total viewers and fourth consecutive month in the key A25-54 demo. Additionally, MSNBC’s The 11th Hour averaged a larger total audience than its CNN 11 p.m. competition for the 66th consecutive month—and a larger A25-54 audience for the fourth month in a row. Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace beat the CNN 4-6 p.m. competition in total viewers for the 56th consecutive month (but fell short in the demo). Additionally, Morning Joe ranked No. 2 on cable news in its time period for the 83rd consecutive month in total viewers and the 51st consecutive month in the key A25-54 demo.

Outside of the quartet of TRMS, The Last Word, The 11th Hour and Morning Joe, no MSNBC weekday programs beat their CNN timeslot competition in the key A25-54 demo.

Here’s MSNBC’s press release for Jan. 2022 Nielsen ratings:


MSNBC Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Ranks #2 Across Cable News, Tops CNN in A25-54 for the 4th Straight Month, Beats CNN for the 62nd

MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) Ranks #2 in Cable News for the 12th Month in a Row

MSNBC Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) Finishes #2 Across Cable News for the 4th Consecutive Month 

“Morning Joe” Continues to Dominate Mornings, Ranks #2 Across All of Cable Television for the 10th Month in a Row 

“The Rachel Maddow Show” More Than Doubles CNN’s Delivery, Tops CNN for the 104th Straight Month in Total Viewers and 12th Straight Month in A25-54

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” More Than Double CNN’s Audience, Beats CNN for the 80th Month in a Row in Total Viewers and 3 of the Last 4 Months in A25-54

“The 11th Hour” Tops CNN for the 66th Consecutive Month in Total Viewers and 4th Consecutive Month in A25-54 

MSNBC Digital Closes Out 2021 with its Strongest Year on Record

“Morning Joe” Tops All Cable Networks in African American Viewership for the Month

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an Average 307 Minutes Per Week, Nearly Doubling CNN

NEW YORK (February 1, 2022) – MSNBC kicked off the year dominating CNN across total day, prime and dayside for the month of January, according to Nielsen.

Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) finished #2 across all of cable news for the month. Prime programming more than doubled CNN’s audience, delivering 1.6M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 698K) and dominating CNN for the 62nd month in a row among total viewers. In A25-54, prime delivered 176K viewers (vs. CNN’s 164K), beating CNN for the 4th month in a row.

MSNBC’s breaking news coverage and reporting during dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) ranked #2 in cable news, topping CNN for the 4th straight month among total viewers. Dayside drew 654K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 644K). In A25-54, dayside drew 72K viewers.

Total day (M-Su 6am-6am) finished #2 in cable news beating CNN for the 12th consecutive month among total viewers. Total day averaged 666K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 498K) and 76k A25-54 viewers.

“Morning Joe” (6am-9am) ranked #2 in all of cable television for the 10th straight month. Among total viewers, “Morning Joe” more than doubled CNN (747K vs. CNN’s 356K) finishing ahead of #4 CNN for the 83rd straight month. Among A25-54, “Morning Joe” averaged 86K, finishing ahead of #16 CNN (59K) for the 51st month in a row. “Morning Joe” also led cable news among diverse audiences. From 6am-9am, “Morning Joe” ranked #1 across all of cable television among African American viewers (156K), ahead of #3 CNN (95K) and #31 FOX News (21K).

“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm finished #2 among all cable news networks in the time period for the 8th straight month in total viewers. “Maddow” more than doubled CNN’s audience with 2.1M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 616K), topping CNN for the 104th straight month. In A25-54, “Maddow” ranked #2 among all cable news networks in the time period for the 11th straight month delivering 245K viewers (vs. CNN’s 149K) and topping CNN for the 12th straight month.

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm ranked #2 in the hour in both total viewers and A25-54. Among total viewers, “The  Last Word” drew 1.3M viewers (vs. CNN’s 556K) and beat CNN for the 80th consecutive month. Among A25-54 viewers, “The Last Word” drew 142K viewers (vs. CNN’s 125K) and beat CNN for three of the last four months.

“The 11th Hour” at 11pm finished #2 in the hour among total viewers for the 10th month in a row and beat CNN for the 66th month in a row. “The 11th Hour” drew 801K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 406K). In A25-54, “The11th Hour” finished #2 in the hour, averaging 101K viewers (vs. CNN’s 91K) and beat CNN for the 4th month in a row.

The following shows also topped CNN for the month in total viewers: “Way Too Early with Jonathan Lemire” at 5am for the 12th straight month; “Stephanie Ruhle Reports” at 9am for the 60th straight month; “MTP Daily” at 1pm for the 5th straight month;  “Katy Tur Reports” at 2pm for the 3rd straight month; “Hallie Jackson Reports” at 3pm for the 4th straight month; “Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm for the 2nd straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 21st straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the 12th straight month; and “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 12th straight month.

In 2021, MSNBC Digital had their strongest year on record, with unique visitors up nearly 9% for the year vs. 2020, seeing increased audiences on platforms such as Apple News. Plus, MSNBC Text drove more page views and more content than any other year on record. In November 2021, MSNBC video time spent per viewer ranked ahead of CNN.com for the 9th month in a row.

Viewers watched MSNBC full day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an average 307 minutes per week, nearly doubling CNN’s 164 minutes per week.

NOTE: January ratings are based on Nielsen most current data for 12/27/2021-01/30/2022. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.

Source: Comscore Multiplatform Media, January – December 2021; Comscore Multiplatform Video Metrix, January – November 2021. MSNBC TV Entity.