Q1 2016 Ratings: MSNBC Regains Its Footing After Poor 2015

By A.J. Katz 

The Peacock’s cable news property shook its tailfeathers during the first quarter of 2016. With a focus on this “unique” election cycle and breaking news during the dayside daypart (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.),  MSNBC was able to deliver its most-watched quarter in over three years.

The network’s signature morning program, Morning Joe, experienced its most-watched quarter ever (574,000 total viewers), that’s up +77 percent from the program’s average in Q1 2015 (325,000). Morning Joe also delivered 148,000 adults 25-54 viewers, a +83 percent improvement from Q1 2015 (81,000).

Here are MSNBC’s average impressions for Q1 of 2016:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 888,000 total viewers / 226,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 502,000 total viewers / 131,000 A25-54

MSNBC’s year-over-year improvement in dayside viewing is notable: +133 percent in adults 25-54 and +83 percent in total viewers.

MSNBC had a big quarter in prime time as well, averaging 1.1 million total viewers. That figure represents a +73 percent year-over-year improvement (628,000 in Q1 2015). The network averaged 268,000 adults 25-54 in the quarter, which is a +111 percent year-over-year improvement (127,000 in Q1 2015).

The network’s top prime time program, The Rachel Maddow Show, was up +92 percent in adults 25-54 and up +48% in total viewers from Q1 of 2015. All in with Chris Hayes was up +78 percent from Q1 2015 in adults 25-54 and up +49 percent in average total viewers.

March 2016 has been MSNBC’s highest-rated month in total viewers and the news demo since January 2013 (dayside daypart).  It has experienced 10 consecutive months of growth in the adults 25-54 demographic.

What a difference a year makes.

Here’s the press release from MSNBC:

NEW YORK – March 29, 2016 – Just a few months after MSNBC’s strategic shift to a breaking news focused dayside (M-F 9a-5p), the network delivered its best quarterly ratings in at least three years among both total viewers (since 4Q 2012) and in the key A25-54 demo (since 1Q 2013) in that daypart. During the first quarter of 2016, MSNBC dayside saw a significant 133% year-over-year gain in A25-54, more than ten times greater than CNN’s growth (11%) and six times that of Fox News (21%). In total viewers, MSNBC’s dayside programming grew 83% — more than tripling growth at CNN (24%) and Fox News (14%) for the quarter.

In addition, March 2016 was MSNBC dayside’s best month in over three years in both total viewers and the A25-54 demo (since January 2013). MSNBC dayside posted double-digit gains month-to-month (18% in A25-54 and 13% in total viewers versus February 2016) — marking 10 straight months of demo growth and 4 straight months of total viewer growth. Year-over-year, MSNBC dayside’s demo audience is up 205% over March 2015 — more than four times greater than CNN (50%) and six times higher than Fox News (30%). In total viewers, MSNBC dayside grew 118% year-over-year, nearly double CNN’s growth (62%) and that of Fox News (14%).

In the morning news daypart, “Morning Joe” posted its highest rating ever in total viewers during the first quarter of 2016. “Morning Joe” beat CNN for the quarter in both the A25-54 demo (151,000 vs. 137,000) and in total viewers (585,000 vs. 460,000). It was the best quarter A25-54 rating for the show since 2013. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” grew 84% over the first quarter of 2015, compared to CNN (10%) and Fox News (15%). In total viewers “Morning Joe” was up 76% compared to CNN (26%) and Fox News (22%). For the month of March 2016, “Morning Joe” posted its second highest monthly rating ever (652,000), a gain of 93% over March 2015. “Morning Joe” has beaten “New Day” on CNN in total viewers for 13 straight months. In A25-54, “Morning Joe” was up 122% over March 2015, posted the show’s highest monthly rating since January 2013, and has increased audience for five straight months.

MSNBC’s primetime programming (M-F 8-11p) delivered strong growth for the quarter. In the A25-54 demo, MSNBC was up 112%, while Fox News grew 48% over the first quarter of 2015. “The Rachel Maddow Show” edged out CNN’s regular programming in A25-54 (279,000 vs. 277,000) and topped CNN in total viewers (1,166,000 vs. 877,000).”The Rachel Maddow Show” was up 92% in A25-54 and 48% in total viewers over the first quarter of 2015. “Hardball with Chris Matthews” (937,000 vs. 843,000) and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (951,000 vs. 780,000) also bested CNN’s regularly schedule programming for the quarter in total viewers. “All In with Chris Hayes” posted solid gains in both A25-54 (78%) and in total viewers (49%) in the first quarter over the previous year.

During March 2016, one of the hottest political months in years, all of MSNBC’s primetime shows saw significant growth over March 2015. “The Rachel Maddow Show” grew 133% in A25-54 and beat CNN’s regular programming in total viewers (1,318,000 vs. 1,180,000). “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” also beat CNN’s regularly scheduled shows in total viewers (1,111,000 vs. 1,050,000) and grew 130% in A25-54 over March 2015. “Hardball with Chris Matthews” grew 79% in A25-54 and 45% in total viewers and “All In with Chris Hayes” grew 128% in A25-54 and 75% in total viewers for the month.

MSNBC.com is about to close its best quarter ever, attracting its biggest audience with 14.3M visitors and almost 20M video starts in February 2016 according to comScore.