Roughly a month ago, The Rachel Maddow Show and MSNBC were riding a high. With weeks’ worth of bad news piling on the president, Maddow enjoyed its best week ever on the show’s 10th anniversary, averaging 3.43 million total viewers and 667,000in the key 25-54 demographic to lead cable news. That week culminated in Maddow becoming the most-watched show in all of television and MSNBC beating Fox News across the board in primetime.
And then, Kavanaugh happened, and Fox came roaring back.
Following that big September week for Maddow and MSNBC, coming on the heels of a few weeks of better-than-normal ratings for both CNN and MSNBC, Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations of sexual misconduct against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In the four full weeks that followed, Fox News experienced a huge ratings surge while both CNN and MSNBC saw an erosion in viewership.
In the four weeks prior to the September 16th Washington Post report detailing Ford’s allegations, both CNN and MSNBC were competitive with Fox News in the demo while MSNBC finished just behind Fox in total audience.
According to Nielsen, between the weeks of August 20th and September 16th, Fox averaged 2.353 million viewers overall and 422,000 in the demo during the primetime 8 PM to 11 PM primetime hours. MSNBC pulled in a total viewership of 2.066 million and 381,000 demo viewers. CNN drew a demo audience of 380,000 and 1.186 million total viewers.
During total day, FNC grabbed a total viewership of 1.353 million viewers overall and 258,000 in the key demo. CNN attracted 240,000 demographic viewers and a total audience of 824,000. MSNBC averaged 1.165 million total viewers and 213,000 in the 25-54 metric.
In the weeks following, however, Fox News has attracted a larger primetime total viewership than CNN and MSNBC combined while greatly expanding its audience. Fox has drawn 3.028 million viewers overall and 576,000 in the key demo during primetime. MSNBC dropped to 1.837 million total viewers and 350,000 in the demographic. CNN pulled in a demo audience of 321,000 and 997,000 total viewers.
In total day, Fox averaged 351,000 in the demo and a total viewership of 1.791 million. CNN captured a demo audience of 220,000 and 742,000 viewers overall. MSNBC attracted 1.054 million viewers overall and 196,000 in the key demo.
In primetime, Fox has seen a robust 29 percent growth in total viewership and 36 percent in the demo. Meanwhile, CNN is down 16 percent in both metrics and MSNBC has dropped 11 percent in total audience and eight percent in the demographic.
For total day, Fox is up 32 percent in overall viewership and 36 percent in the demo. MSNBC and CNN have experienced the same slippage of 10 percent in total viewership and eight percent in the key demographic.
So is this a situation of conservatives rallying around their embattled Supreme Court nominee and tuning into Fox to get coverage on a contentious confirmation and its aftermath? Are we also seeing liberals and progressives tuning out a bit with relatively good news for the president as the Mueller probe has temporarily gone quiet heading into the midterms? Is it a combo of both? Or is it something else altogether?
Regardless, one thing is certain, Fox News’ ratings are way up in recent weeks while its competitors are scuffling. Will this continue? Who can say?