May 2020 Ratings: MSNBC Remains Second Most Watched on Cable, but Also Lost Viewers From April

By A.J. Katz 

May 2020 was a crazy month. In addition to continued coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s now wall-to-wall breaking news coverage of the country-wide protests over the police murder of George Floyd and economic volatility.

MSNBC remained the second-most-watched network on basic cable in prime time, total day and dayside (weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). However, the network continued to average fewer A25-54 viewers than rival CNN.

Compared with this past April, MSNBC, like Fox News and CNN, lost some traction, which is not all that surprising considering April was the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The network was -6% in total prime-time viewers, -10% in total day viewers, -13% in the prime-time demo and -18% in the total day demo.


Compared with its May 2019 performance, MSNBC was +16% in total prime-time viewers, +27% in total day viewers, +21% in the prime-time demo and +33% in the total day demo.

The average impressions for April 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun):  1,923,000 total viewers / 293,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun):  1,877,000 total viewers / 178,000 A25-54

The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. defeated Cuomo Prime Time in Total Viewers, marking the 84th consecutive month she has defeated her 9 p.m.competition in the category. However, she finished behind her CNN counterpart in the key A25-54 demo. Maddow also continues to lag behind a number of Fox News shows that it had regularly been beating prior to 2020.

Each MSNBC show, from 4 p.m. through midnight, beat CNN in Total Viewers but fell short among Adults 25-54.

Lastly, Saturday May 30 and Sunday May 31 was MSNBC’s most-watched weekend since April 2003 (excluding a presidential debate), averaging roughly 1.3 million total viewers across the 6 a.m.-2 a.m. daypart.

Here’s MSNBC’s May 2020 ratings press release:





During a month of round-the-clock breaking news including nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, the coronavirus pandemic and economic volatility, MSNBC’s on-the-ground coverage and analysis drove total day (M-Su 6am-6am), prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) and dayside (M-F 9am-5pm) ratings to #2 in all of cable in total viewers, according to Nielsen. “Morning Joe” at 6am delivered its largest lead over CNN ever, averaging 1.4M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 635K) and increased viewership by +28% over May 2019, growing more than FOX News (+11%).


  • Total day (M-Sun 6a-6a) ranked #2 among all cable networks averaging 1.2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.1M) and drew +27% more total viewers compared to May 2019.


  • Prime ranked #2 in cable news for the 42nd month in a row and #2 across all cable networks for the 4th month in a row in total viewers averaging 2.4M viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.7M). Total viewership was up +11% and also up in A25-54 with +10%, compared to May 2019.


  • Dayside ranked #2 across all cable networks in total viewers averaging 1.35M (vs. CNN’s 1.28M). Dayside’s breaking news and analysis propelled viewership up by +38% in total viewers and +63% in A25-54, compared to May 2019. In A25-54, dayside viewership grew more than FOX News (+63% vs. FOX News’s +35%).


  • “Morning Joe” at 6am continues its lead ranking #2 in the hour among all cable networks for the 63rd straight month in total viewers. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” ranked #2 in the hour for the 31st straight month averaging 216K viewers (vs. CNN’s 153K) and increased viewership by +26% compared to May 2019 growing more than FOX News (+5%) and CNN (+12%) by double digits.


  • “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm was #2 in total viewers topping CNN for the 84th month in a row averaging 3M viewers (vs. CNN’s 2M) and grew its total audience by +14% compared to May 2019.


  • In total viewers, “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for the 40th straight month; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” topped CNN; “Deadline: White House” at 4pm topped CNN for the 32nd straight month; “MTP Daily” at 5pm topped CNN; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm topped CNN; “MSNBC Live” at 7pm topped CNN; “All In with Chris Hayes” topped CNN; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 60th straight month; and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm topped CNN for the 46th straight month.


  • This past weekend, Saturday May 30th and Sunday May 31st was MSNBC’s highest-rated weekend in total viewers (Sa-Su 6am-2am) since April of 2003 (excluding a presidential debate) averaging 1.3M total viewers.


  • MSNBC is covering the major issues impacting Americans through live special reports, including “A Special Edition of The Last Word: Life in the Time of Coronavirus,” co-hosted by Ali Velshi and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel; “Craig Melvin Reports: Coronavirus Pandemic” hosted by Craig Melvin; “MSNBC Special Report: Testing & The Road to Reopening” co-hosted by Nicolle Wallace and Brian Williams; “Morning Joe’s Special Report: Isolation Nation” co-hosted by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist; “Velshi: The COVID-19 Economy” hosted by Ali Velshi; “America On Pause” hosted by Nicolle Wallace; “Small Business in Crisis” hosted by Stephanie Ruhle and “Last Word Special: Joe Biden with Stacey Abrams” hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell.


NOTE: May 2020 ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 04/27/2020-05/31/2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials.