MSNBC Plays ‘Hardball,’ Gets Viewer Hike

Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

MSNBC, while still in third place in the cable-news race, bucked the summer tradition of declining viewership and posted June-to-July growth with three of its four evening shows.
The results raised spirits at the long-struggling news network, especially since three out of the four competing shows on Fox News Channel and CNN lost viewers.
Nielsen Media Research data from July and June shows that for MSNBC, only “Scarborough Country,” hosted by former U.S. Congressman Joe Scarborough, showed a month-to-month decrease (a slight 3 percent) in July. But MSNBC chalked up double-digit growth for “Hardball With Chris Matthews” (a whopping 40 percent), “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” (13 percent) and “The Abrams Report” (13 percent).
On the other hand, cable news leader Fox News Channel saw month-to-month losses of viewers in July. “The O’Reilly Factor” was down 12 percent, “Hannity & Colmes” was down 9 percent and “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren” was down 10 percent. The only Fox evening show to buck the downtrend was “Fox Report With Shepard Smith” (up 2 percent).
CNN gained viewers on July nights only during the 7 p.m.-to-8 p.m. hour of “Live From the Headlines.” Now assigned to anchor Anderson Cooper, that hour grew 16 percent month to month. For the rest of the evening, CNN logged June-to-July decreases ranging from slight (Paula Zahn’s 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. hour of “Live From the Headlines” and Aaron Brown’s “NewsNight” both were down 4 percent) to double-digit (“Larry King Live” dropped 13 percent in the middle of the prime-time lineup).
At the other end of the day, the addition of NBC emigre Soledad O’Brien as a co-anchor in July helped boost CNN’s “American Morning” 4 percent month to month (and 9 percent year to year), while “Fox & Friends”’ was down 9 percent from June to July and up 18 percent year to year.
The month-to-month comparisons show that in July Fox was down 28,000 viewers to a total-day average of 739,000, while CNN was up 60,000 to 417,000 viewers and MSNBC was up 6,000 viewers to 201,000. In the summer of 2002, all three news networks saw their audiences increase from June to July.
Year-to-year comparisons for the entire month of July produced more familiar patterns. Fox’s July 2002 viewership was up 13 percent to 1.274 million in prime time from July 2002, and up 16 percent to 739,000 for total day. Year-to-year CNN was down 26 percent to 690,000 in prime time and down 22 percent to 417,000 for total day.
For the month, MSNBC was down 37 percent to 265,000 viewers in prime time and down 27 percent to 201,000 viewers for total day compared with July 2002. A year ago MSNBC was plowing $6 million into promotion of the July 15 debut of “Donahue,” which brought a million-plus viewers to MSNBC the first night before falling to half that by February.