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MSNBC may still be in third place, but the run-up to November’s presidential election has the cable news network enjoying some healthy ratings momentum — thanks in no small part to Rachel Maddow.
The host saw her best month since November 2012, during the last presidential election, climbing 113 percent in the key news demographic for a nightly average of 367,000 adults 25-54. Only Fox News Channel’s dominant primetime trio of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly fared better. Maddow’s performance gave MSNBC its narrowest margin of loss against CNN in years, its weekly primetime showing in the key demo trailing CNN 264,000 to 272,000. (FNC maintained its lead with an average 374,000 adults 25-54.)
Among total viewers, MSNBC’s increases managed to put it ahead of CNN in primetime. The network averaged 1.13 million viewers, placing it between FNC’s 2.08 million and CNN’s 844,000.
Maddow and MSNBC’s boosts comes after an especially strong showing during the Democratic National Convention. No doubt rallying some of its liberal audience during its coverage, MSNBC likely also had a slight exposure boost thanks to the NBCUniversal Olympic contract. Just a year ago, the network was starting its plan to lure back centrist viewers — a priority of NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack, who returned to the outlet in 2015.
Across the dial, it comes as little surprise that most ratings trajectories are up as the November election nears. MSNBC’s primetime is up the most, compared to 2015, with an 86 percent boost in the demo. CNN also was up by 53 percent. FNC, admittedly down 29 percent in primetime, is the only network that was breaking records this time in 2015. Last August included the GOP debate that brought in an unprecedented 24 million viewers.
Looking at the full day, MSNBC also is up by strong margins — 84 percent in the news demo, though it still trails both FNC and CNN. Morning Joe remains a ratings beacon in the a.m. Hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, no longer a favored outlet of Donald Trump, continue to thrive after publicly losing the GOP candidate’s affection. August marked the program’s best showing in the demo in nearly four years, rising 88 percent from a year ago and topping CNN during its 6 to 9 a.m. time slot.
September, October and November are likely to further vault the cable news networks — debates between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are currently scheduled for Sept. 26, Oct. 9 and Oct. 19 — but, with that given, the priority (particularly at MSNBC) will be to find a way to keep hold of some of those new or returning viewers moving forward.
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