July ’21 Ratings: MSNBC Delivers Growth From June, But Sheds Viewers From 2020 and 2017

By A.J. Katz 

The big three cable newsers rebounded in July 2021 after what had been a mixed June on the ratings front.

MSNBC held steady in average total primetime viewers and saw slight growth among adults 25-54 from the previous month. It was also the second-most-watched network on cable TV for the 5th month in a row, something unheard of for the left-leaning cable newser during the prior Democratic administration.

MSNBC, which marked 25 years on air in July, averaged 1.31 million total viewers in primetime, but just 168,000 adults 25-54 in the daypart. That’s flat in total prime time viewers, and represents +1% growth among adults 25-54 vs. the previous month (June 2021). In total day, MSNBC averaged 772,000 total viewers, and 103,000 viewers in the demo. That’s +1% in total viewers, and +4% in the demo vs. June.


On the downside, MSNBC shed viewers from July 2020 and July 2017. The network fell -37% in average total primetime audience, -44% in A25-54 primetime audience, -36% in average total day viewership, and was -41% in the total day demo from vs. July 2020. All of the cable newsers are down year-over-year (for obvious reasons), and Rachel Maddow’s July 16, 2020 interview with Mary Trump  earned the largest audience in show history (5.23 million viewers). One should also factor that into the mix when analyzing the significant decline from July 2020.

How did MSNBC fare relative to four years ago (July 2017).  Not great, particularly when it came to adults 25-54. The network slipped -24% in average total primetime viewers, -57% in the primetime demo, was down -17% in total day viewers and -51% in the total day demo.

MSNBC continues to out-perform CNN in all dayparts when it comes to average total audience, but remains third behind both Fox News and CNN among adults 25-54, the demo that matters most to advertisers of news.

The average impressions for July 2021 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.):  1,312,000 total viewers / 168,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.):  772,000 total viewers / 103,000 A25-54

In terms of programming, Deadline: White House remains a bright spot for the network. The two-hour program (4-6 p.m. ET) continues to average the greatest number of viewers on cable news in the 4 p.m. (it falls short to Fox News’ The Five in the 5 p.m. hour). The Nicolle Wallace-hosted program has finished No. 1 at 4 p.m. for nine consecutive months.

From 9 p.m.-12 a.m., MSNBC topped CNN in both total viewers and A25-54 (but fell short in the 8 p.m. hour).

Additionally, each hour of MSNBC’s weekday programming (5 a.m.-3 a.m.) topped CNN in total viewers.

Lastly, below is MSNBC’s ratings press release for July 2021, where it continues to stress beating CNN in average total viewers on weekdays:


MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) and Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Rank #2 Across All of Cable

“Morning Joe” Beats CNN for the 77th Month in a Row in Total Viewers and the 45th Month in a Row in A25-54

“Deadline: White House” is #1 in Total Viewers During 4pm Hour for the 9th Consecutive Month

“The Rachel Maddow Show,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” Top CNN Among Total Viewers and A25-54

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an Average 346 Minutes Per Week, Nearly Doubling CNN

MSNBC Digital Outpaces CNN Politics in Video, Finishes #1 in the Politics Sub-Category for 28 Consecutive Months

MSNBC Total Day, Prime and “Morning Joe” Top All Cable Networks in African American Viewership 

NEW YORK (July 27, 2021) – MSNBC marked 25 years on air this month as the #2 network across all of cable in July and dominating CNN across every weekday hour, according to Nielsen. Viewers turned to MSNBC for first-rate coverage of the fight for voting rights, Covid-19 variants and more.

In total day (M-Su 6am-6am), MSNBC ranked #2 among cable networks for the 8th consecutive month (ahead of #3 HGTV, #4 CNN and #5 ESPN). During total day, MSNBC drew 781K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 602K). In A25-54, total day averaged 104K viewers.

In prime (M-F 8pm-11pm), MSNBC ranked #2 across all of cable television total viewers for 5 of the last 6 months. Among total viewers, MSNBC prime drew 1.7M viewers (vs. CNN’s 902K) and finished ahead of #3 HGTV, #6 ESPN and #7 CNN. MSNBC finished #2 among cable news channels for the 56th straight month in total viewers. In A25-54, MSNBC averaged 222K viewers (vs. CNN’s 202K).

During dayside (M-F 9am-4pm), every hour of MSNBC’s news coverage topped CNN’s coverage among total viewers. For the full daypart, MSNBC averaged 9% higher than CNN (785K vs. 723K). MSNBC dayside finished #2 in the daypart across all of cable for the 3rd month in a row (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 HGTV, and #5 ESPN). Among A25-54, MSNBC averaged 107K viewers.

“Morning Joe” from 6am-9am once again doubled CNN’s total audience with 910K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 450K) and ranked #2 across all of cable for the 5th straight month (ahead of #3 CNN, #12 ESPN and #10 HGTV). July marks the 77th month in a row that “Morning Joe” has topped CNN in total viewers. Among A25-54, “Morning Joe” averaged 118K viewers, easily topping CNN’s 85K for the 45th straight month. “Morning Joe” also led cable news among diverse audiences. “Morning Joe” ranked #1 across all of cable television among African American viewership (205K), ahead of #34 FOX News (17K) and #2 CNN (129K).

“Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm continues to dominate the 4pm hour, finishing #1 in that hour for the 9th consecutive month with 1.3M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 797K). From 4pm-6pm “Deadline” ranked #2 and averaged 1.3M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 787K). Among A25-54, “Deadline” averaged 147K viewers.

From 9pm-12am, MSNBC topped CNN in both total viewers and A25-54. “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm ranked #2 in the hour for the 2nd month in a row, drawing 2.4M total viewers and easily topping CNN’s 977K. In A25-54, “Maddow” ranked #2 in the hour for the 5th month in a row and averaged 318K viewers (vs. CNN’s 206K).

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm finished #2 in the hour topping CNN for the 74th straight month among total viewers. “The Last Word’ averaged 1.5M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 729K). In A25-54, “The Last Word” ranked #2 in the hour with 185K viewers.

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm ranked #2 in the hour for the 4th consecutive month and beat CNN for the last 60 months. “The 11th Hour” drew 1.2M total viewers more than doubling CNN’s total audience CNN’s (526K). In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” finished #2 in the hour for the 3rd straight month with 158K viewers (vs. CNN’s 144K).

Every hour of MSNBC’s weekday programming (5am-3am) topped CNN in total viewers, including: “Way too Early” at 5am for the 6th straight month; “Stephanie Ruhle Reports’’ at 9am for the 54th straight month; “Hallie Jackson Reports” at 10am for the 6th straight month; “Craig Melvin Reports” at 11am for the 3rd straight month; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm for the 3rd straight month; “MTP Daily” at 1pm for the 3rd straight month; “Katy Tur Reports” at 2pm for the 3rd straight month; “Ayman Mohyeldin Reports” at 3pm  for the 3rd straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 15th straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the 6th straight month (“The ReidOut” celebrated one year in July) and “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 6th straight month.

On Saturdays at 8am, “VELSHI” topped CNN for the 3rd straight month. MSNBC weekend (Sa-Su 6am-6pm) was up +8% over June 2021 while CNN was down -10%.

MSNBC has held the #1 position in the Politics Sub-Category for 28 consecutive months in both video views and total minutes, according to ComScore through June 2021. From January to June, MSNBC monthly unique visitors are up +10% year-over-year compared with the same time period in 2020. Since January, MSNBC averaged 134M monthly video views in 2021, far outpacing CNN Politics (64M) and Fox News Politics (17M). MSNBC video viewers have watched for an average 35 minutes in 2021, +89% longer than CNN Politics and more than double Fox News Politics. In addition, the last three months have been MSNBC Daily’s best on record, surpassing election month, with July on track to be up more than +30% from its previous record.

Across all of cable networks, MSNBC was the #1 network in African American viewership (ahead of #2 CNN and #44 FOX News) in full day (M-Su 6am-2am) and prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) through 7/23/21.

Viewers watched MSNBC for more minutes per week than CNN. During Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am), viewers watched MSNBC for an average 246 minutes per week (vs. CNN’s 189 minutes). During Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm), viewers watched MSNBC for an average 136 minutes per week (vs. CNN’s 62 minutes).

NOTE: July ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 06/28/2021-7/25/2021. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news. 

Comscore Multiplatform Media & Video Metrix, January – June 2021, Comscore Politics News/Information Sub-Category.