MSNBC has throttled into second place in three hours of cable news primetime, beating CNN for the month of October.
Fox News, as usual, retains the top slot and is in no danger of relinquishing it. But MSNBC turned in its best primetime performance in its 12-year history in the adults 25-54 demo, according to Nielsen Media Research. It surpassed CNN for second place between 7-10 p.m. with “Hardball,” “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
MSNBC GM Phil Griffin said Monday that it’s a historic placement for the network and part of MSNBC’s long-term strategy when it set out on this course two years ago.
“We wanted to challenge CNN and become a player by the election,” Griffin said. “Guess what? In the months leading into the election, we beat CNN.”
“Rachel Maddow,” in fact, beat CNN’s “Larry King Live” in October in the demo with 700,000 viewers to “King’s” 673,000. It was way ahead of where MSNBC was a year ago (141,000 adults 25-54) as well as viewership, where it averaged 1.9 million to last October’s 389,000.
“Countdown” also was firmly in second place, with 784,000 adults 25-54 compared with 582,000 for CNN’s “Campbell Brown.” It was its best month ever in the demo. The month takes out the nights of the presidential and vice presidential debates. Additionally, the 7 p.m. “Hardball” was ahead of CNN’s “Lou Dobbs” by 7% in the demo.
CNN-U.S. president Jonathan Klein didn’t seem to be too worried. In a statement Monday, Klein said: “CNN is beating MSNBC in primetime, we are No. 1 in all cable news at 10 p.m., and it is no surprise that their partisan approach will see a bump a month before the election. We think our objective, post-partisan approach will have better long-term results.”
The challenge that remains, however, is how MSNBC can hold onto those election-crazed viewers once Nov. 4 comes and goes. Griffin says it’s feasible, though he realizes that cable news viewership is going to decline.
“The overall high numbers are election-related, but we’ve had total growth over the past two years in terms of share of the audience and the percentage we get. We’re right there,” Griffin said. “We have a loyal audience.”