May 2018 Ratings: MSNBC Remains One of Cable’s Top 5 Networks

By A.J. Katz Comment

MSNBC has cemented itself as one of the most-watched cable networks during the Trump administration, and is consistently posting year-over-year audience growth.

But that audience growth came to a halt in May 2018. Compared to May of last year, in Monday – Sunday prime time, (the standard daypart which all networks and buyers focus on) MSNBC was -2 percent in total viewers and -21 percent in the key A25-54 demographic. In total day, the network was -1 percent in total viewers and -11 percent in the total day demo.

The network had some lofty standards to live up to when it came to year-over-year performance. In May 2017, MSNBC defeated both Fox News & CNN on weeknights in the A25-54 demo, a feat the network hadn’t accomplished since 2000. Plus, ratings for the NBA playoffs on TNT and ESPN are up from this time last year.

Despite the year-over-year audience losses in the key dayparts, there was still good news for the network. It finished the month of May ranked No. 4 across basic cable in total prime time viewers, only behind rival Fox News (No. 2) and NBA playoffs-heavy TNT (No. 1) and ESPN (No. 3), and it’s still way ahead of CNN in prime time.

The network also touted its year-over-year growth in the dayside daypart, which is defined as Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET. You will find that information in the network’s press release, shown at the bottom of the post.

The average impressions for May 2018 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,654,000 total viewers / 329,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 914,000 total viewers / 196,000 A25-54

Moving over to program ratings performance – The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. finished the month as the second-most-watched program in all of cable news for the 2nd month in a row, only behind Fox News’s Hannity.

Maddow delivered 2.63 million viewers—more than doubling CNN at 9 p.m. in total viewers (vs. 846,000). Maddow averaged 531,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 273,000). May 2018 was the 16th consecutive month that Maddow beat CNN in A25-54 and the 60th consecutive month in total viewers.

Maddow’s lead-in All in with Chris Hayes bested CNN in both A25-54 – for the 7th straight month – and in total viewers for the 18th straight month, and Maddow’s lead-out, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell at beat CNN in both A25-54 for the 8th month in a row and in total viewers for the 36th month in a row.

The 11th Hour with Brian Williams at 11 p.m. topped CNN in A25-54 for the 8th straight month and in total viewers for the 22nd straight month.

Moving to the mornings – Morning Joe topped CNN New Day in A25-54 for the 7th straight month and in total viewers for the 39th straight month. MJ was up +3 percent in total viewers while Fox & Friends was -4 percent and New Day was -14 percent versus May 2017.

Here’s MSNBC’s release:

 MSNBC DAYSIDE PROGRAMMING POSTS GROWTH IN MAY, FOX NEWS AND CNN ARE DOWN
MSNBC Dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) Tops CNN in Total Viewers for 8th Straight Month
MSNBC Dayside is the 2nd Most-Watched Network Across All of Cable, Delivers Only Total Viewer Growth Among Top 10 Cable Networks
MSNBC Dayside Shrinks Gap with CNN in A25-54, Closest to CNN in Four Years
MSNBC Prime (M-F 8-11pm) Continues to Dominate CNN, More Than Doubles CNN in Total Viewers
More Viewers Turn to MSNBC Than CNN for Every Hour from 5am-3am on Weekdays
NEW YORK (May 30, 2018) – For the month of May, MSNBC dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) posted growth in A25-54 and total viewers while FOX News and CNN both declined. MSNBC dayside was up +11%, while the competition was down double digits (vs. FOX News’ -14% and CNN’s -25%) compared to May 2017. In total viewers, MSNBC was up +4% (vs. FOX News’ -9% and CNN’s -21%). May marked the 8th straight month that MSNBC beat CNN in total viewers during M-F dayside. For all of cable, MSNBC finished as the #2 most-watched network in total viewers, up from #4 in 2017 (ahead of Nickelodeon and CNN). Among the Top 10 cable networks, MSNBC was the only network to grow in total viewers over 2017. In the key A25-54 demographic, MSNBC dayside continued to narrow the gap with CNN, with less than 10,000 viewers A25-54 separating the two cable news networks. This is the closest MSNBC dayside has been to CNN in four years (since February 2014).
MSNBC prime (M-F 8-11pm) continued to dominate CNN in A25-54 for the 8th straight month and in total viewers for the 18th consecutive month. Prime on MSNBC more than doubled CNN’s viewership in total viewers (2.1 million vs. CNN’s 865,000). For all of cable, MSNBC prime ranked #8 in A25-54 (ahead of CNN #20) and #3 in total viewers (behind TNT and FOX News, and ahead of CNN #11).
“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm finished the month as the 2nd most-watched program in all of cable news for the 2nd month in a row. “Maddow” delivered 2.6 million viewers—more than doubling CNN at 9pm in total viewers (vs. 846,000). “Maddow” averaged 531,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 273,000). This is the 16th consecutive month that “Maddow” beat CNN in A25-54 and the 60th consecutive month in total viewers.
MSNBC prime’s “All in with Chris Hayes” at 8pm also bested CNN in both A25-54 – for the 7th straight month – and in total viewers for the 18th straight month. “All In” averaged 336,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 287,000) and 1.7 million total viewers (vs. CNN’s 926,000). “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm beat CNN in both A25-54 for the 8th month in a row and in total viewers for the 36th month in a row. “The Last Word” averaged 2 million total viewers (vs. CNN’s 856,000) and 397,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 292,000).
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm topped CNN in A25-54 for the 8th straight month and in total viewers for the 22nd straight month. “The 11th Hour” averaged 324,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 246,000) and 1.5 million total viewers—doubling CNN (vs. CNN’s 715,000).
“Morning Joe” at 6am topped CNN in A25-54 for the 7th straight month and in total viewers for the 39th straight month. “Morning Joe” averaged 1.1 million total viewers (vs. CNN’s 584,000) and 238,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 186,000). “Morning Joe” was up +3% in total viewers while FOX News (-4%) and CNN were down (-14%).
Following “Morning Joe,” MSNBC’s dayside programs at 9am, 10am, 11am and 4pm beat CNN in both A25-54 and total viewers. These MSNBC programs also delivered double-digit growth while their competing programs posted double-digit declines compared to May 2017. In A25-54, “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am beat CNN for the 2nd month in a row (and was up +20% vs. FOX News’ -14% and CNN’s -23%); “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am beat CNN (and was up +19% vs. FOX News’ -15% and CNN’s -28%); “MSNBC Live with Velshi & Ruhle” at 11am beat CNN (and was up +15% vs. FOX News’ -15% and CNN’s -24%); and “Deadline: White House” beat CNN at 4pm (and was up +11% vs. FOX News’ -11% and CNN’s -30%) over May 2017. In total viewers, “Stephanie Ruhle” beat CNN for the 16th straight month (and was up +9% vs. FOX News’ -9% and CNN’s -18%); “Hallie Jackson” beat CNN for the 8th straight month (and was up +3% vs. FOX News’ -10% and CNN’s -21%); “Velshi & Ruhle” beat CNN for the 8th straight month (and was up +7% vs. FOX News’ -10% and CNN’s -21%); and “Deadline” for the 8th straight month (and was up +19% vs. FOX News’ -10% and CNN’s -27%) over May 2017.
All of MSNBC’s early evening (5-8pm) programs topped CNN in A25-54 and total viewers. In A25-54, “MTP Daily” at 5pm, “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm, and “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at 7pm each beat CNN for their hours. May 2018 was the first A25-54 demographic victory over CNN for both “MTP Daily” and “The Beat,” and the 2nd month in a row “Hardball” bested CNN at 7pm. In total viewers, “MTP Daily” beat CNN for the 13th straight month; “The Beat” beat CNN for the 11th straight month; and “Hardball” beat CNN at 7pm for the 22nd straight month. At 6pm, “The Beat” was the only cable news program to post growth in A25-54 (+8% vs. FOX News’ -5% and CNN’s -40%) and total viewers (+28% vs. FOX News’ -6% and CNN’s -38%).
Every hour of MSNBC’s weekday programming between 5am-3am beat CNN in total viewers, including: “Morning Joe First Look” at 5am for the 7th straight month; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm for the 11th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 1pm for the 7th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur” at 2pm for the 7th straight month; and “MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi” at 3pm for the 7th straight month.
Additionally, MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am) bested CNN for the 15th straight month in total viewers. For all of cable, MSNBC ranked as the #3 network among total viewers; CNN ranked #9, down four places from #5 in May 2017.
Year-to-date, MSNBC.com continues to have its strongest year on record for video, up double-digits vs. 2017 monthly average. Video engagement on MSNBC.com now averages 56 minutes per viewer, more than 4x longer than FOXNews.com and 2x longer than CNN.com (source: comScore 2018TD multiplatform video Jan-April monthly averages).
NOTE: May 2018 ratings are based on Nielsen Live+Same data day for 4/30/18-5/27/18. Individual show data represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.
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