November ’21 Ratings: MSNBC Is Losing Total Viewers, But Remains a Top 5 Cable Network

By A.J. Katz 

It was a good news, bad news month of November for MSNBC on the ratings month. The bad news: MSNBC delivered its smallest average total audience in primetime since 2016, averaging 1.09 million viewers in the daypart. That’s a -9% decline from October ’21. The network also shed -3% in total day viewers from October, averaging 660,000. The good news: MSNBC remains one of the five-most-watched networks on all of basic cable. The network averaged the fourth-largest primetime audience in November, behind ESPN, Fox News and Hallmark Channel. MSNBC was also fourth-most-watched basic cable network in total day for November, behind Fox News, ESPN, and Hallmark. That’s something to be pleased about.

Despite dropping -9% in total primetime viewers, MSNBC didn’t lose any adults 25-54 relative to October. The network stayed flat in the measurement, both in primetime and in total day. MSNBC once again beat CNN in average total viewers across the dayparts. However, it came up short to CNN among adults 25-54, both in total day and primetime.

Compared to Nov. 2020, the network shed -59% of average total primetime audience, and -58% of its average total day audience, -74% in the prime time demo, and -74% in the total day demo. To be fair, Nov. 2020 was MSNBC’s most-watched month in the 6 a.m.-6 a.m. daypart in network history. The network’s massive ratings were driven by live coverage of the 2020 presidential election. There was no way that the network would match those year-ago numbers, especially not in an off-election year.

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

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 1,091,000 total viewers / 140,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.):  660,000 total viewers / 78,000 A25-54

On the programming front— The Rachel Maddow Show finished No. 2 in her timeslot. The network’s signature program has averaged a larger total audience than its CNN competition for 102 consecutive months, and 10 consecutive months among adults 25-54. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell beat its 10 p.m. CNN competition for the 78th consecutive month in average total viewers, and second consecutive month in the demo. Additionally, the penultimate month of The 11th Hour with Brian Williams averaged a larger total audience than its CNN 11 p.m. competition for the 64th consecutive month, and for the second consecutive month in the demo.

Outside of that trio, no MSNBC programs beat their CNN timeslot competition in the key A25-54 demo.

Lastly, during its first month with Jonathan Lemire as host, MSNBC’s Way Too Early at 5am beat its CNN competition for the 10th straight month, delivering the largest lead over CNN since Nov. 2020.

Here’s MSNBC’s press release for Nov. 2021 Nielsen ratings:

MSNBC CONTINUES TO DOMINATE CNN IN TOTAL DAY, PRIME AND DAYSIDE AMONG TOTAL VIEWERS IN NOVEMBER

MSNBC Prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) Tops CNN in A25-54 for the 2nd Straight Month, Nearly Doubles CNN in Total Viewers

MSNBC Dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) Finishes #2 Across All of Cable Television for the 2nd Month in a Row

MSNBC Total Day (M-Su 6am-6am) Beats CNN for the 10th Month in a Row

“Morning Joe” Ranks #2 in All of Cable Among Total Viewers for the 8th Straight Month, Tops CNN for the 81st Consecutive Month in Total Viewers and 49th Consecutive Month in A25-54

“The Rachel Maddow Show” Tops CNN for the 102nd Month in Total Viewers and 10th Straight Month in A25-54

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” Bests CNN for the 78th Consecutive Month in Total Viewers and 2nd Consecutive Month in A25-54

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” Beats CNN for the 64th Month in a Row in Total Viewers and 2nd Month in a Row in A25-54

MSNBC.com Monthly Unique Visitors Up +17% this Year

MSNBC’s Early Fringe (M-F 5pm-8pm) and “Morning Joe” Top All Cable Networks in African American Viewership for the Month; Early Fringe and Prime Top CNN Among Hispanic Viewers

Viewers Watch MSNBC Full Day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an Average 289 Minutes Per Week

NEW YORK (December 1, 2021) – MSNBC continues to dominate CNN across total day, prime and dayside for the month of November, according to Nielsen.

MSNBC’s breaking news coverage during dayside (M-F 9am-4pm) finished #2 across all of cable television during a month of landmark court trials (ahead of #3 CNN, #5 HGTV and #8 ESPN), drawing 676K total viewers (vs. CNN’s 659K) topping CNN for the 2nd straight month. In A25-54, dayside drew 77K viewers.

MSNBC prime (M-F 8pm-11pm) nearly doubled CNN’s total audience with 1.5M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 729K) and beat CNN in A25-54 (189K vs. CNN’s 170K). November marked the 60th straight month prime beat CNN in total viewers and 2nd straight month in A25-54. Among Hispanic viewers, MSNBC topped CNN in prime and early fringe (M-F 5p-8p).

Early fringe programming (M-F 5pm-8pm) finished #2 among all cable networks (ahead of #4 ESPN, #6 CNN, and #8 HGTV) for the 9th consecutive month. Early fringe averaged 1.2M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 694K). In A25-54, early fringe averaged 130K viewers. Across all cable networks, MSNBC was the #1 network in African American viewership (ahead of #3 CNN and #29 FOX News) for the month in early fringe.

Total day (M-Su 6am-6am) ranked #2 in cable news for the 9th consecutive month delivering 670K total viewers (vs. #3 CNN’s 500K). In A25-54, total day averaged 80K viewers.

“Morning Joe” (6am-9am) ranked #2 across all of cable television for the 8th month in a row. In total viewers, “Morning Joe” more than doubled CNN in total viewers (819K vs. CNN’s 363K) finishing ahead of #3 CNN for the 81st month in a row. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” drew 85K viewers (vs. CNN’s 74K) finishing ahead of #3 CNN for the 49th month in a row. “Morning Joe” also led cable news among diverse audiences. From 6am-9am, “Morning Joe” ranked #1 across all of cable television among African American viewers (162K), ahead of #5 CNN (89K) and #38 FOX News (14K).

“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9pm finished #2 among all cable news networks in the time period for the 6th straight month in total viewers. “Maddow” more than doubled CNN’s audience with 2.1M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 793K) topping CNN for the 102nd straight month. In A25-54, “Maddow” ranked #2 among all cable news networks in the time period for the 9th straight month delivering 274K viewers (vs. CNN’s 173K) and topping CNN for the 10th straight month.

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10pm finished #2 in the hour among total viewers for the 9th month in a row and beat CNN for the 78th month in a row. “The Last Word” drew 1.3M total viewers (vs. CNN’s 626K). In A25-54, “The Last Word” finished #2 in the hour, averaging 160K viewers (vs. CNN’s 154K) and beat CNN for the 2nd month in a row.

“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” at 11pm ranked #2 in the hour in both total viewers and A25-54. In total viewers, “The 11th Hour” delivered 1M viewers (vs. CNN’s 448K) and beat CNN for the 64th consecutive month. In A25-54, “The 11th Hour” delivered 144K viewers (vs. CNN’s 117K) and beat CNN for the 2nd consecutive month.

The following shows also topped CNN for the month in total viewers: “Way Too Early” at 5am for the 10th straight month, delivering the largest lead over CNN since Nov. 2020 during its first month with Jonathan Lemire as host; “Stephanie Ruhle Reports” at 9am for the 58th straight month; “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 12pm for the 2nd straight month; “MTP Daily” at 1pm for the 3rd straight month; “Katy Tur Reports” at 2pm; “Hallie Jackson Reports” at 3pm for the 2nd straight month; “Deadline: White House” from 4pm-6pm for the 54th straight month; “The Beat with Ari Melber” at 6pm for the 19th straight month; “The ReidOut” at 7pm for the 10th straight month; and “All In with Chris Hayes” at 8pm for the 10th straight month.

From January to October, MSNBC Digital monthly unique visitors are up +17% versus the same time period in 2020. MSNBC Digital viewers are highly engaged. The average viewer watched for longer than competitors such as CNN.com and FoxNews.com throughout 2021.

Viewers watched MSNBC full day (M-Su 6am-2am) for an average 289 minutes per week, nearly doubling CNN’s 159 minutes per week.

NOTE: October ratings are based on Nielsen most current data day for 11/01/2021-11/28/2021. Individual show data for the month represents regular programming only, excluding specials and breaking news. 

Source: Comscore Multiplatform Media, January – October 2021; Comscore Multiplatform Video Metrix, January – September 2021. MSNBC TV Entity.

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