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MSNBC Has Big Ratings Drop as the Channel's President Admits Viewers Don't Turn to MSNBC for Breaking News. Is MSNBC Actually a News Channel Anymore, or Just a Political Talk Channel? NY TImes

In May, "at a time of intensely high interest in news, MSNBC’s ratings declined from the same period a year ago by about 20 percent. The explanation, in the network’s own analysis, comes down to this: Breaking news is not really what MSNBC does," reports our friend Bill Carter in The New York Times

The story adds, " 'We’re not the place for that,' said Phil Griffin, the channel’s president, in reference to covering breaking events as CNN does. 'Our brand is not that.'

"The brand, one MSNBC has cultivated with success, is defined by its tagline, 'The Place for Politics,' and a skew toward left-wing, progressive political talk, the opposite of the conservative-based approach that has worked well for Fox News. "

The article notes, "In May, MSNBC, which generally runs second to the dominant leader, Fox News, among cable news channels, plunged all the way to fourth place, dropping behind not only its closest rival, CNN, but also that network’s sister channel, HLN (formerly Headline News)."

Carter also observes, "MSNBC’s viewers may have especially grown tired of politics because the news has been mostly negative recently toward President Obama, whom MSNBC’s hosts have championed..."

Carter adds, "A broader question is whether MSNBC is being damaged by a perception that it is not really a news channel anymore. 'MSNBC has stopped doing news so you don’t really think of them when there is a breaking news story,' said a producer who has worked in both cable and broadcast news, who asked not to be identified because of continuing relationships with one of the networks.

"Unlike CNN and Fox, MSNBC does not have a full roster of its own correspondents, still relying largely on reporters from NBC News like Chuck Todd and Pete Williams. It does not even have a White House correspondent."

Carter also notes that MSNBC "has experienced steady growth in ratings over the last several years, however, and profits have followed. For example, a Pew Research study put the network’s annual profit at $186.6 million for 2011, up from $168.8 million the prior year. The research firm SNL Kagan estimated MSNBC’s 2012 profit at $202 million."

The article adds, "Mr. Griffin acknowledged that CNN, which has experienced ratings gains near 100 percent in the last two months, shines in periods of intense news interest. But, he said, this will pass. 'You do have to look at the long term,' Mr. Griffin said in May. 'In the first quarter of this year, Fox News had its lowest quarter in a decade. A year ago CNN had its worst month ever. I tip my hat to what CNN has done this month, but let’s not be so myopic as to think the whole world has changed.' "