MSNBC Q2 2020 Ratings: Morning Joe Helps MSNBC Average the Network’s Largest Audience for a Quarter Ever

By A.J. Katz 

If you have already checked out our CNN and Fox News Q2 ratings wrap-ups, you have probably noticed that cable news has much to brag about on the viewership front. There are a lot of breaking news stories capturing our attention at the same time—a worldwide pandemic, nationwide protests against police brutality and a presidential campaign—and Americans are flocking to cable news for coverage of these events.

MSNBC had its most-watched quarter in total day and in prime time, and remained cable television’s second-most-watched network, only behind Fox News.

NBC’s politics-focused cable news network averaged a hair under 2 million total viewers in prime time and 1.21 million total viewers for the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. total day time period. That’s according to live-plus-same-day data from Nielsen.


The network didn’t see as much viewership growth as its competitors, but growth is still growth! Compared to Q2 of 2019, MSNBC was +19% in total prime-time viewers and +25% in the prime-time demo, +34% in total day viewers and +45% in the total day demo.

Compared to Q1 2020, which had been MSNBC’s most-watched quarter ever in the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. daypart, the network was +10% in total day viewers and +7% in the total day demo, +4% in total prime-time viewers, but -7% in the prime-time demo.

MSNBC remained behind CNN and Fox News in the advertiser-friendly A25-54 demographic in all of the relevant dayparts, both on weekdays and weekends.

Here are MSNBC’s viewership figures for Q2 of 2020:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun):  1,999,000 total viewers / 315,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,209,000 total viewers / 193,000 A25-54

Morning Joe had another huge quarter, delivering MSNBC’s largest total audience for a quarter in the 6-9 a.m. time period in network history (1.4 million total viewers).

In A25-54, Morning Joe averaged 225,000 viewers, marking its highest-rated quarter since Q3 of 2018.

A number of MSNBC shows averaged their largest total audience for a quarter, including MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin (11 a.m.), Andrea Mitchell Reports (2 p.m.), MTP Daily (5 p.m.), The Rachel Maddow Show and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.

TRMS averaged its largest audience for a quarter ever, averaging 3.1 million viewers, and beat CNN in Total Viewers for the 43rd straight quarter. However, it came up short to its CNN counterpart in the demo.

Additionally, no MSNBC program finished No. 1 on cable news in its time slot in Q2, either in Total Viewers or the key A25-54 demo. Slightly surprising.

Here’s the MSNBC Q2 2020 Nielsen ratings release:

Every Hour of MSNBC Dayside Scores Record-Breaking Quarter in Total Viewers, Grows More Than FOX News Overall
“Morning Joe” Posts Largest Lead Over CNN Ever, Delivers Best Audience Performance Among Total Viewers in Network History, Grows More Than FOX News
MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am), Dayside (M-F 9am-5pm), Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) and Weekend Total Day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) Post Highest-Rated Quarter in Total Viewers
MSNBC is the #2-Rated Cable Network in Total Viewers Across Total Day and Prime
In 2Q20 MSNBC Covered All Angles of the Coronavirus Pandemic with Breaking News, Analysis and 23 Hours of Specials
NEW YORK (June 30, 2020) – MSNBC ended a quarter dominated by major breaking news with historic ratings records and double-digit growth across key dayparts, according to Nielsen. Driven by a commitment to breaking news and analysis, MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am), dayside (M-F 9am-5pm), prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) and weekend total day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) all shattered quarterly ratings record among total viewers.
MSNBC total day (M-Su 6am-6am) ranked #2 across all cable networks (ahead of #3 CNN, #4 HGTV and #27 ESPN) for the 6th straight quarter. Across cable news, MSNBC was also #2, beating CNN for the 13th straight quarter in total viewers (1.22M vs. CNN’s 1.19M). Total day viewership grew +34% among total viewers and +46% in A25-54 compared to 2Q19.
Prime (M-Su 8pm-11pm) drew a record-breaking average of 2 million total viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.8M), the best quarter delivery in network history. Prime ranked #2 across cable news and all cable networks (ahead of #3 CNN, #5HGTV and #15 ESPN) and increased +19% in total viewers while A25-54 viewership increased by +25% compared to 2Q19.
“Morning Joe” delivered MSNBC’s best audience performance among total viewers in the 6am-9am time slot. “Morning Joe” averaged a record 1.4M total viewers, easily topping CNN’s 674K – the largest lead over CNN ever. In total viewers, “Morning Joe” beat CNN for the 21st straight quarter and more than doubled FOX News’ growth with +32% compared to 2Q19 (vs. FOX News’ +13%). In A25-54, “Morning Joe” averaged 225K viewers, marking its highest-rated quarter since 3Q18. “Morning Joe” increased A25-54 viewership by +36% compared to 2Q19, growing more than FOX News (+13%).
In 2Q20, every weekday MSNBC program from 9am-5pm scored record total viewership. In A25-54, dayside increased viewership by +90% compared to 2Q19 and grew more than FOX News (+62%). In total viewers, dayside viewership also grew more than FOX News, with MSNBC dayside up +51% compared to 2Q19 (vs. FOX News’ +45%).
Many MSNBC shows hit total-viewer highs in 2Q20, including: “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am (1.4M); “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am (1.3M); “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin” at 11am (1.2M); “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm (1.3M); “MSNBC Live” at 1pm (1.3M); “MSNBC Live with Katy Tur/MSNBC Live” at 2pm (1.3M); “MSNBC Live/Deadline: White House Special at 3pm (1.5M); “MTP Daily” at 5pm (1.8M); “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm (3.2M) and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm (1.9M). Weekend total-viewer highs include “Velshi” Saturdays and Sundays at 8am (785K); “AM Joy” Saturdays and Sundays at 10am (1.2M); “Weekends with Alex Witt” Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm (1.1M); “MSNBC Live Weekend Edition” Saturdays at 2pm (991K); “PoliticsNation” Saturdays at 5pm (669K) and “Kasie DC” Sundays at 7pm (973K).
The following programs also beat CNN among total viewers: “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” at 9am topped CNN for the 14th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” at 10am topped CNN for the 12th straight quarter; “MSNBC Live/Deadline: White House Special” at 3pm topped CNN for 10 out of the last 11 quarters; “MTP Daily” at 5pm topped CNN for the 13th straight quarter; “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm topped CNN for the 14th straight quarter; “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm topped CNN for the 43rd straight quarter; “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm topped CNN for the 20th straight quarter and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm topped CNN for the 15th straight quarter.
MSNBC weekend total day (Sa-Su 6am-6am) delivered its highest-rated quarter ever averaging 778K total viewers, up +61% compared to 2Q19 and up +73% in A25-54 averaging 130K viewers.
Throughout the 2nd quarter of 2020, MSNBC provided critical real-time coverage of newsworthy events and issues affecting 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; “A Last Word Special: Joe Biden with Stacey Abrams” hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell; “The Class of COVID-19” hosted by Alex Witt; “American Crisis: Poverty and the Pandemic” hosted by Joy Reid and “The Road to Reform: A Special Report with Joy Reid.”
NOTE: 2Q20 ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 03/30/2020-06/28/2020. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news.
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