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MSNBC Winning Cable News Race as Fox News Drops to Third

For almost two decades, the Fox News Channel was the top of the top for cable news viewers, both in key demographics, and for overall number of eyeballs. However, this past week saw the unseating of the king with both MSNBC and CNN beating Fox News in the key 25 to 54 age demographic, and MSNBC beating Fox News with overall viewers.

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Report from The Hill:

MSNBC finished first in the key 25-54 demographic and in total viewers against its cable news rivals last week for the first time in its 21-year existence, according to Nielsen Research.

Overall, MSNBC finished second in all of basic cable, only falling to TNT, which aired several NBA playoff games.

Fox News finished third in primetime for the first time in nearly 17 years.

For the week of May 15, MSNBC’s weekday prime averaged 2.440 million total viewers, with Fox second with 2.405 million and CNN third with 1.649 million.

For adults aged 25-54, MSNBC averaged 611,000 viewers. CNN finished second with 589,000 and Fox third with 497,000.

In terms of individual programs, “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9 p.m. continued its ratings roll, finishing as the most-watched nonsports program for the week in all of basic cable.

MSNBC had been building an audience with Maddow for years and had seen steady gains. On the other hand. the primetime Fox News lineup looks almost nothing like it did just one year ago with Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly both gone. The only original primetime name is Sean Hannity, and viewers apparently aren’t looking for a Trump cheerleader right now.

When asked about the success, Maddow thinks it’s because viewers are looking for critical analysis of the party in power, accord to The Hill:

“It’s hard to understand why these things happen, but it’s nice,” she told host Stephen Colbert on CBS’s “The Late Show” on Monday night.

Maddow said her show hasn’t changed its approach to the news, but viewers’ appetite for political coverage has changed since President Trump’s inauguration.

“I do cable news in kind of a weird way. We haven’t changed how we do the show at all. It just seems like more people want that now,” she said.

“I’m assuming people will go back to not wanting it,” Maddow joked. “And I’ll still be stuck.”

Maddow credits her explanations of the news for her ratings success over the years.

“The most important thing I can do right now is just try to explain stuff,” Maddow said. “Here’s what has happened, here’s why we believe it to be true, here’s why it seems important.”

It’s true, the appetite of viewers and voters changes over time and the cable news ratings have proven that out. However, Fox News was able to maintain the number one spot during the Bush and Obama administrations.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle is CNN, which has taken a slightly more subdued path than MSNBC, though still maintains a very critical eye toward the Trump administration. CNN wasn’t able to top Fox News in viewers, but it did take 2nd place in the coveted 25-54 age demographic.

This might be good news for big names like Greta Van Susteren, who recently left Fox News to join…. MSNBC. Her numbers are not topping her former network during her 6pm time slot, but she’s making progress:

One of the newest members of the MSNBC family, Greta Van Susteren provided the network with solid numbers in the 6 p.m. hour. For the Record delivered the time period’s best total viewer and A25-54 audiences for a quarter since Q4, 2012. While MSNBC remains behind Fox News and CNN at 6 p.m., it delivered more year-over-year audience growth than its competition: up +59 percent in total viewers, and up +74 percent in the A25-54 demo.

It had been unthinkable for MSNBC to start beating CNN, let alone topple the number one name in cable news, but it happened. Fox News won’t take this “news” lying down, of course, and I suspect there are still more changes coming to the primetime lineup since Sean Hannity seems fairly unhappy.

Last week also coincided with a number of bombshell news stories dropping in the late-afternoon hours which helped setup a perfect storm for MSNBC and CNN to capitalize on as viewers were looking for answers and analysis on all things Trump/Comey/Russia/Flynn/etc…

Nate Ashworth :Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.