January 2021 Ratings: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Is the Most-Watched Host on Cable News

By A.J. Katz Comment

MSNBC was the second-most-watched cable network for Jan. 2021 among total viewers (only behind CNN), and beat Fox News in both total day viewers and total prime time viewers for the first time since 2001.

MSNBC averaged 1.6 million total day viewers, which is the largest average audience for a month in network history, and 2.6 million total viewers in prime time.

Relative to Jan. 2020, the network saw its audience grow +53% in total prime time viewers and +70% in the prime time demo. In the 24-hour day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.), the network was +66% in total viewers and +89% in the key A25-54 demo.

In the final week of the month, MSNBC fell to third among adults 25-54, but rose to No. 1 in total day viewers. It ranked No. 2 in total prime time viewers ahead of CNN.

Here are the impressions for January 2021 (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 2,620,000 total viewers / 486,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.): 1,650,000 total viewers / 295,000 A25-54

The network also happens to employ the most-watched host on cable news in 2021: Rachel Maddow.

The Rachel Maddow Show finished the first month of the year as the most-watched show on all of cable television, moving past Tucker Carlson, and delivering its largest average audience for a month ever (4.3 million total viewers).

TRMS wasn’t the only program that delivered the goods for MSNBC this past month. Morning Joe had a record-breaking January, and finished No. 1 on all of cable in its time slot in both total viewers and among adults 25-54. It also posted its largest margin of victory over Fox & Friends ever, and compared to Jan. 2020, grew its A25-54 audience by +62%.

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell delivered its best A25-54 performance ever, averaging 585,000 viewers. That’s more than Fox News (for the first time since Jan. 2019) but fewer demo viewers than CNN.

The 11th Hour with Brian Williams was the most-watched cable news show in its time slot for the 4th consecutive month, delivering record ratings in average total viewers and adults 25-54.

One program that experienced a bit of a hiccup was All in with Chris Hayes. The 8 p.m. program ranked No. 3 in total viewers behind both Fox News and CNN, and No. 3 among adults 25-54. Needless to say, beating Tucker Carlson Tonight and Anderson Cooper 360 is no easy feat.

MSNBC performed well on election night in Georgia, drawing the largest total audience from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. ET (3.9 million total viewers).

Lastly, MSNBC drew its largest inauguration audience ever on Jan. 20, 2021, averaging 5 million total viewers and 1.2 million adults 25-54 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ET.

Here’s the network’s ratings press release, one which focuses on its victories over Fox News (might as well highlight that while you can!):

MSNBC IS THE #1 NETWORK IN ALL OF CABLE DURING PRIMETIME, DOMINATING FOX NEWS AND CNN AMONG TOTAL VIEWERS IN JANUARY

“The Rachel Maddow Show” is the #1 Regularly Scheduled Show in All of Cable Television, Overtakes FOX News and Delivers Highest-Rated Month Ever

“Morning Joe” Finishes #1 Across All of Cable During Record-Breaking Month in Total Viewers and A25-54, Posts Largest Lead Over FOX News Ever

In the Period Since Election Week, MSNBC is Up +7% in Total Viewers While FOX News is Down -37%

MSNBC is the Highest-Rated Cable News Network During Special Election Coverage in Georgia (6pm-2am) with Steve Kornacki Tracking 24 Hours at the Big Board

MSNBC is the #2 Network in Total Day Across All of Cable in Total Viewers

MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Overtake FOX News in Total Viewers – the 1st Time Since 2000

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” is #1 for the 4th Straight Month, Posts Record Viewership in January Among Total Viewers and A25-54

“Deadline: White House” Tops FOX News, is #1 from 4pm-6pm in Total Viewers for the 2nd Month in a Row, Posts Triple-Digit Growth

“MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” is #1 in Total Viewers for the 2nd Month in a Row and Tops FOX News in A25-54

“The Beat with Ari Melber” is #1 in Total Viewers for the 2nd Consecutive Month, Tops FOX News in Both Demos 

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” is #1 for the 2nd Straight Month in Total Viewers and Beats FOX News in A25-54

MSNBC Weekend (Sa-Su 6am-6pm) Beat FOX News for the 1st Time Since October 2001

MSNBC’s Inauguration Coverage Draws Largest Dayside Audiences Ever, Tops FOX News in Total Viewers and A25-54

Over 17M Viewers Turned to MSNBC During the Capitol Insurrection on 1/6, Watching an Average of 5 Hours of Coverage on MSNBC

MSNBC Digital Sees Strongest Month on Record with 107M Video Viewers, Achieves Double-Digit Growth Over 2020 

NEW YORK (February 2, 2021) – In January, viewers turned to MSNBC in record numbers for extensive coverage and analysis during an unprecedented news cycle. From the Covid-19 pandemic, the insurrection at the Capitol and Inauguration Day, MSNBC delivered wall-to-wall coverage that captivated viewers and propelled the network to the #1 spot in all of cable during weekday prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) (ahead of #2 CNN, #3 FOX News, #6 HGTV and #4 ESPN) as well as the #1 program at 9pm with “The Rachel Maddow Show,” according to Nielsen.

MSNBC’s weekday prime topped all of cable as well as both FOX News and CNN in January, drawing 3.4M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 3.0M and CNN’s 3.1M). This marks the 50th month in a row that weekday prime topped CNN for the month and the 1st time since Dec. 2018 that MSNBC topped FOX News. In total viewers, weekday prime gained +53% viewers while FOX News was down -13% compared to Jan. 2020. In A25-54, weekday prime averaged 639K viewers, increasing viewership by +69% compared to Jan. 2020 (vs. FOX News’ drop of -10%).

In all of cable television, “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the highest-rated regularly scheduled program in total viewers and scored the highest-rated month at 9pm in MSNBC history with 4.3M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 3.2M and CNN’s 3.6M). “Maddow” easily outperformed FOX News, topping “Hannity” by a record 1.1M total viewers and increasing total viewership by +40% while FOX News was down by double digits (-20%) compared to Jan. 2020. In A25-54, “Maddow” averaged 804K viewers, beating FOX News for the 2nd month in a row and increasing viewership by +50% while FOX News was also down by double digits (-19%).

“Morning Joe” at 6am continued its reign in the mornings, ranking #1 across cable news in total viewers for the 2nd straight month while FOX News saw a consistent ratings drain. A record 1.7M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 1.1M) turned to “Morning Joe” in January – a +55% increase while “FOX and Friends” shed -32% viewers compared to Jan. 2020. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” also ranked #1 in cable news (6am-9am), averaging 290K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 213K and CNN 285K) ranking as the #1 regularly scheduled morning program across all of cable and topping FOX News for the 2nd straight month. Compared to Jan. 2020, “Morning Joe” increased A25-54 viewership by +62% while FOX was only down -34%.

MSNBC’s commitment to frontline reporting and breaking news around-the-clock drove MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am) to finish ahead of FOX News for the month in both total viewers and A25-54 for the 1st time in either demo since 2001. Total day ranked #2 among all cable networks (ahead of #3 FOX News, #4 ESPN and #5 HGTV), averaging a record 1.7M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 1.4M) – the best delivery in the daypart ever. In total viewers, total day grew by +65% compared to Jan. 2020 (vs. FOX News’ -19%). In A25-54, total day ranked #2 averaging 298K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 245K). Total day increased A25-54 viewership by +87% (vs. FOX News’ -18%).

Every dayside program between 9am and 4pm beat FOX News in total viewers. Dayside ranked #2 among all cable networks in both total viewers and A25-54 and topping FOX News for the 1st time since Sept. 2000 in total viewers and May 2001 in A25-54 both demos (ahead of #3 FOX News, #4 ESPN and #5 HGTV). In total viewers, dayside drew a record audience (1.9M vs. FOX News’ 1.5M) and increased viewership by +80% (vs. FOX News’ -18%). In A25-54, dayside posted its best delivery since Apr. 2003, averaging 347K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 262K) and more than doubling FOX News’ growth (+141% vs. FOX News’ -11%).

To close out the news in the evenings, audiences again flocked to “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” helping MSNBC deliver its highest-rated month at 11pm and finishing at #1 for the 4th month in a row in total viewers (2.8M vs. FOX News 1.5M and CNN’s 2.0M). “The 11th Hour” saw double-digit growth (+68%) while FOX News lost viewers (-21%) compared to Jan. 2020.

For two hours (4pm-6pm) each day, “Deadline: White House” captured audiences and finished as the #1 program in the time period in total viewers for the 2nd straight month. “Deadline” scored its best delivery ever in both demos with 3.2M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 2.2M and CNN’s 2.7M) and 534K A25-54 viewers (vs. FOX News’ 338K and CNN’s 677K). In both demos, “Deadline” saw triple-digit growth, up +113% in total viewers and +195% in A25-54 compared to Jan. 2020. FOX News at 4pm shed viewers compared to Jan. 2020, losing -9% of total viewers and -15% of A25-54 viewers.

“MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am was #1 in total viewers for the 2nd month in a row and drew its largest audience ever, averaging 1.8M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 1.5M and CNN’s 1.6M). In total viewers, “MSNBC Live” increased viewership by +68% while FOX News was down by -27% compared to Jan. 2020. “MSNBC Live” posted 286K A25-54 viewers – the best A25-54 delivery at 9am since Apr. 2003. In A25-54, “MSNBC Live” grew by +95% compared to Jan. 2020 while FOX News was down -19%.

“The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm had finished #1 at 6pm in total viewers and averaging 2.6M (vs. FOX News’ 2.3M and CNN 2.50M) in total viewers. January marks the 2nd straight month “The Beat” has topped FOX News in total viewers and A25-54. Compared to Jan. 2020, “The Beat” increased viewership by +63% while FOX News saw ratings drop -15%. In A25-54, “The Beat” averaged 433K viewers – a 94% increase compared to Jan. 2020 (while FOX News was down -17%).

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm was again #1 in total viewers for the 2nd consecutive month, posting 3.4M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 2.5M and CNN’s 2.7M) – a +53% increase compared to Jan. 2020 while FOX News was down -26%. “The Last Word” delivered its best A25-54 performance ever, averaging 585K viewers (vs. FOX News’ 464K) and topping FOX News for the 1st time since Jan. 2019 in A25-54.

Since Election Day, there has been a significant shift in cable news viewing among total viewers. While FOX News has seen rating declines in every show from 6am-12am, MSNBC has grown. More viewers are turning to MSNBC during breaking news coverage and for analysis of the day’s events. MSNBC’s post-election coverage has seen a viewership boost of +7% in the period since election (11/9-1/26) compared to the period prior to the election (8/31-11/1) while FOX News has seen a -37% decline in ratings.

Additionally, NBC News and MSNBC National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki helmed the Big Board during the Georgia Runoffs to break down the latest votes. Viewers tracked Kornacki at the Big Board and on the “Kornacki Cam” as he logged 24 hours on MSNBC. MSNBC drew a record 3.9M total viewers during the pivotal election, propelling MSNBC as the highest-rated cable news network during election night in Georgia (6pm-2am) (vs. FOX News’ 3.1M and CNN’s 3.3M).

The following day, MSNBC anchors and correspondents on-the-ground delivered consequential coverage, rolling from the Georgia Runoffs to the dramatic scenes from the Capitol. More than 17M people watched MSNBC as the events unfolded and for more than 5 hours on average.

MSNBC’s special coverage of the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021 delivered MSNBC’s highest-rated dayside (9am-4pm) ever, drawing a record-shattering 5M total viewers and 1.2M A25-54 viewers, according to Nielsen. Viewers turned to MSNBC as Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid reported the historic transition of power while MSNBC and NBC News correspondents provided a first-hand look at one of the most unique ceremonies in American history. The 2021 inauguration topped MSNBC’s previous record of 2M total viewers during the Jan. 20, 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (up +147% from 2009 in dayside). In A25-54, the 2021 inauguration topped MSNBC’s previous record of 716K viewers during the 2009 inauguration (up +65% from 2009 in dayside). Outside of the inauguration, dayside programming on Jan. 20, 2020 topped MSNBC’s highest dayside delivery in total viewers (3.6M on 1/6/21) and A25-54 (878K on 10/8/01).

The following programs delivered record-breaking months in total viewers including: “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” at 5am; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 11am; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm; “MTP Daily” at 1pm; “MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin” at 3pm; “The ReidOut” at 7pm and “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm.

The following programs also beat FOX News among total viewers: “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” at 5am topped FOX News for first time since Nov. 2001; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am topped FOX News for the 2nd straight month; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin at 11am; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” and “MTP Daily” at 1pm all topped FOX News for the 1st time since 2000; “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm topped FOX News for the 2nd straight month; “MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin” at 3pm topped FOX News for the 2nd straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm topped FOX News for the 2nd straight month and “The ReidOut” at 7pm topped FOX News for the 2nd straight month.

MSNBC weekend (Sa-Su 6am-6pm) beat FOX News for the 1st time since Oct. 2001, averaging 1.1M total viewers (vs. FOX News’ 1M). Several weekend programs hit total-viewer highs including:  “Weekends with Alex Witt” Saturdays from 12pm-3pm (1.3M),  “VELSHI” Sundays at 8am (978K best since Mar.03), “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart” Sundays at 10am (1.2M), “Weekends with Alex Witt” Sundays from 12pm-3pm (1.3M)” and “MSNBC Live with Yasmin Vossoughian” Sundays from 3pm-5pm (1.1M).

In January, MSNBC Digital saw 107M video views for the 1st time on record – a +54% increase over Dec. 2020 and a +53% increase over Jan. 2020. MSNBC combined on and off network video views hit an all-time high (471M), surpassing Nov. 2020 (previous high 454M). MSNBC Digital reach hit 26M unique visitors, marking the 2nd best month on record and a +51% increase over Dec. 2020 and a 42% increase over Jan. 2020.

NOTE: January ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 12/28/2020-1/31/2021. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.

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