MSNBC Arrives at Midterm Election With Little Ratings Steam

Midterm Elections - H 2014
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Midterm Elections - H 2014

October was a rough month for MSNBC. After spending much of the year suffering ratings lows and lagging in third place behind Fox News Channel and CNN, the cable news network approaches the end of 2014 trailing further behind the cable news pack than it has all year.

Those dramatic drops, particularly in primetime, would almost be easier to stomach if they weren't happening during the approach to the midterm election. Compared to the same month last year, when domestic politics were considerably less eventful, MSNBC dropped 48 percent in the news-targeted demographic of adults 25-54, according to Nielsen Media.

To be fair, midterms don't exactly make for scintillating TV. And while all three of the cable news networks can expect lifts on Tuesday night for their augmented coverage of the more closely watched races, all will be a far cry from the last presidential election. The trio of cable news networks boasted a gross average of more than 25 million viewers during primetime the night President Obama was reelected in 2012.

Bad news for MSNBC has been good for its competition. FNC maintained its easy lead in total viewers and the key demographic during October, while CNN's demo advantage over MSNBC grew and hit the six-month mark. The last time CNN boasted the No. 2 spot for so many consecutive months was during the 2008 election.

October, which saw plenty news organizations devote more airtime to Ebola than the campaign trail, actually ended on an even lower note for MNSBC as the election drew closer. The network averaged just 118,000 adults 25-54 during the week of Oct. 27-31. That's behind its own monthly average.

There is still Tuesday. And on the big night, all three networks are giving the midterm a similar treatment as the one they gave the 2012 race. FNC will again have Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly leading election coverage starting at 6 p.m. ET. (Kelly, of course, elevated her status at the network after the last election when her standoff against Karl Rove went viral.)

Over on CNN, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper start at 5 p.m. ET, with Jake Tapper and John King joining throughout the evening. Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews co-headline MSNC's "Vote 2014!" coverage at 6 p.m. ET.

Maddow, the face of MSNBC since the 2008 election, clocked another all-time ratings low during the month of October.