May ’22 Ratings: MSNBC Remains Among Cable’s 5-Most-Watched, But Struggles to Draw Adults 25-54

By A.J. Katz 

According to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen for the month of May MSNBC was the fourth-most-watched basic cable network, both in total day and during primetime.

NBCU’s politics-focused cable network averaged a far larger total audience than CNN, but it continues to come up short to its main rival in the key A25-54 demo.

A late-May boost from live breaking news coverage of the Texas school shooting wasn’t enough to offset a down Nielsen ratings month for MSNBC. The network saw a drop off of -9% in total primetime viewers, and -15% among adults 25-54 in primetime vs. April 2022. In total day, the network shed -5% in total viewers, and -7% among adults 25-54 from April. The 70,000 adults 25-54 average in total day represents the network’s smallest average audience in the measurement since 1999, and its 105,000 primetime demo delivery represents the network’s smallest since May 2004.


Relative to May 2021  , MSNBC lost -32% in total primetime viewers and -24% in total day viewers.

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

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 1,018,000 total viewers / 105,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.):  634,000 total viewers / 70,000 A25-54

On the programming front, Morning Joe ranked No. 2 in total cable news morning viewers for the 12th month in a row (but fell short to CNN New Day in adults 25-54). a.m. hour of Morning Joe is % in total viewers from what the network averaged in the hour the prior month, when Morning Joe first expanded to four hours (6-10 a.m. ET). Additionally, the show’s 9 a.m. hour delivered its largest lead over CNN in total viewers since October.

The Rachel Maddow Show (now named MSNBC Prime on Tuesdays-Fridays), ranked No. 2 in the 9 p.m. hour for the 12th straight month. However, the broadcast continues to shed a significant amount of its audience with Maddow absent for much of the week.

Below, the network’s May ’22 Nielsen ratings press release:


MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) Tops CNN for 15 of the Last 16 Months

MSNBC Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Nearly Doubles CNN’s Total Audience, Tops CNN for the 66th Straight Month 

“Morning Joe” (M-F 6am-10am) Ranks #2 in Cable TV for the 14th Month in a Row, Extended 9am Hour Delivers Largest Lead Over CNN Since October 

MSNBC Tops CNN Weekdays from 5am-10am and 3pm-12am Among Total Viewers 

MSNBC Digital Text Content Delivers Strongest Month Ever in May 

MSNBC Total Day Tops All Cable News Networks in African American Viewership for the Month

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-6am) for an Average 327 Minutes Per Week, Nearly Doubling CNN  

NEW YORK (June 1, 2022) – MSNBC finished #2 across cable news in May, according to Nielsen. During a month of critical breaking news and the start of primary elections, MSNBC’s breaking news and analysis topped CNN across total day and prime among total viewers.

MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am) drew 634K total viewers, beating CNN (500K) for 15 of the last 16 months. Total day drew 71K A25-54 viewers. Year-to-date, MSNBC weekday total day (M-F 6am–2am) ranked #2 across all of cable television.

MSNBC prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) nearly doubled CNN’s total audience. Prime delivered 1.3M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 671K), topping CNN for the 66th straight month. In A25-54, prime delivered 133K viewers.

MSNBC’s breaking news and on-the-ground reporting during dayside (10am-4pm) delivered 608K total viewers and 66K A25-54 viewers.

“Morning Joe” (6am-10am) ranked #2 across all of cable television for the 14th month in a row. May marked the 87th month in a row that “Morning Joe” has topped CNN in total viewers (792K vs. CNN’s 391K). The extended hour of “Morning Joe” at 9am delivered the largest lead of CNN since Oct. 2021. Among A25-54, “Morning Joe” averaged 99K viewers, finishing ahead of #8 CNN (85K) for the 2nd month in a row. “Morning Joe” also led cable news among diverse audiences. From 6am-10am, “Morning Joe” ranked #1 in cable news among African American viewers (170K), ahead of #2 CNN (85K) and #3 FOX News (17K).

The following shows also topped CNN for the month in total viewers: “Way Too Early with Jonathan Lemire” at 5am; “Hallie Jackson Reports” at 3pm; “Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm for the 60th straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 25th straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm the 2nd straight month; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for 2nd straight month; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm for the 84th straight month; and “The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle” for the 70th straight month.

MSNBC Digital text content which includes MSNBC Daily, The ReidOut Blog, Maddow Blog and Know Your Value had its strongest month ever in May 2022, more than doubling its performance versus the same month last year. The last four months have been the brand’s strongest on record in total text page views.

The premiere of “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets” on Sunday 5/15 at 10pm was the highest-rated MSNBC Films premiere among A25-54 since “Paper & Glue” on Friday 12/10.

Viewers watched MSNBC full day (M-Su 6am-6am) for an average of 327 minutes per week (vs. CNN’s 179 minutes per week.)

NOTE: May ratings are based on Nielsen most current data for 4/25/2022-5/29/2022. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news. 

Source: Adobe Analytics & Partner Portals, May 2022.