Cable news networks have been as successful as ever in the past two years of President Donald Trump's term in office, and part of the Christmas season has been going quite well for one channel in particular. For the first time since 2000, MSNBC reached #1 in weekday ratings and viewership totals, having finally risen above Fox News for the five-day time frame.
Let's break down the details. This victory admittedly has a pretty limited window, as MSNBC topped the cable news cycle for the week of December 17. (A victory is a victory, though.) For the measured 20-hour Sales Day period, MSNBC came out on top with its average daily viewership, which came out to around 1.55 million viewers. In comparison, Fox News was in the #2 slot, trailing by an average of just 17,000 people. Meanwhile, the struggling CNN came in third place with around 975,000 daily viewers.
This marked the first week that MSNBC completely won out in total weekday viewers since September 25, 2000, and was the first time that MSNBC beat out Fox News since November 6, 2000. That's a long time to be playing catch-up, but the constant struggle might just make this news all the more celebratory for those at the network.
When it comes to the prime age demographic ratings for the weekday window measured here -- which accounts for those aged 25-54 -- MSNBC also won out, if only by a small margin. The network averaged 269,000 viewers throughout the Sales Day block, while CNN was averaging 268,000 viewers in the same spot, and Fox News fell just below with around 259,000 pairs of peepers.
Denoting another solid victory, this was the first time MSNBC ever beat Fox News in those particular ratings. The press release also noted this was the first time Fox News has ever come in third place in the key 25-54 demographic.
MSNBC's stats seem to look even more impressive once we zoom in a little closer. The network actually followed through with its fourth straight week as the leader in both viewership and demo rating through the primetime hours of 8:00-11:00 p.m. ET. For this particular week, MSNBC was averaging 2.57 million viewers, as compared to Fox News' 2.24 million and CNN's 1.39 million. The lead was just as prominent for 25-54-year-old viewers, too. MSNBC averaged 471,000 in primetime, while Fox News (355,000) and CNN (415,000) just couldn't keep up.
For some particular highlights across MSNBC's lineup, The Rachel Maddow Show ended the week as the #1 cable news program. The veteran host was pulling in an average of 3.21 million total viewers (621,000 demo) in her time slot, as compared to Fox News' 2.31 million (343,000 demo) and CNN's 1.45 million (433,000 demo).
Elsewhere, shows like The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams also did extremely well with both total viewership and demo ratings, coming out well ahead of competing programs in the same time slots. Also, MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi, Deadline: White House and Hardball with Chris Matthews all experienced victories of their own, with each bringing in more total viewers than those airing on Fox News and CNN. (It's presumed these latter three series didn't come out on top for demo ratings.)
For what it's worth, and it's probably worth a lot in this particular case, Fox News' crown jewel Hannity has been without its namesake host since December 14. Sean Hannity is a huge reason why Fox News has maintained a stronghold on cable news ratings in recent years, with Rachel Maddow's series as the most noteworthy rivalry. It's obviously impossible to know how these numbers would have shaken out had Hannity been airing episodes without guest hosts, though, so no judgment calls will be made.
Fox News is still the #1 cable news network on the whole, but its grip on audiences seems to be dwindling as of late. According to Newsweek, Hannity has seen a 19% drop in total viewership in the month after the November midterm elections, averaging an audience of 2.76 million. He faced an even bigger dip with viewers aged 25-54, losing 30% of that viewer base in the same time period.
Still, when all-day weekend stats are incorporated, Fox News actually did win out the full week of December 17 in total viewership and in the demo ratings. FNC brought in roughly 1.24 million overall, with 215,000 viewers aged 25-54, while MSNBC dipped to 1.17 million total viewers, with 209,000 within the key demo.
Will 2019 continue to be just as bright for MSNBC, or will Fox News return to the throne as the undisputed leader of cable news? Or, possibly, could CNN reverse course and rise to the top of the heap itself? Time and scandal-rocked news cycles will tell.
While waiting to hear more about the heated cable news network wars, be sure to keep up with all the new and returning shows hitting the midseason TV schedule when 2019 rolls around.