MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” grew its total viewership 12 percent in 2018, to nearly 1.1 million on average, while rivals Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” and CNN’s “New Day” both saw ratings drops for the year, according to Nielsen data.
MSNBC’s morning show, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinksi, finished the year with its highest ratings — and the highest for MSNBC in the 6 to 9 a.m. timeslot in the network’s 21-year history.
The show also saw a slight 1 percent bump in the advertiser-coveted 25- to 54-year-old news demographic, from 228,000 to 230,000 on average.
According to Nielsen data, “Fox & Friends” ratings fell in 2018 by 5 percent overall and 11 percent in the key demo. However, the Fox News staple remained in a commanding lead overall, averaging 1.5 million total viewers and 325,000 in the demo.
The picture was bleaker at CNN, whose “New Day” sank nearly 9 percent in total viewers, to 576,000, and 17 percent in the demo, to 188,000. Network star Chris Cuomo’s departure from “New Day” last May for a new primetime show only accelerated the downward trend as the network fell further behind its two network news competitors.
All three news networks enjoyed robust ratings growth in 2017, powered by the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House and a seemingly endless stream of news.
The good news for “Morning Joe” broadly mirrors the network’s overall ratings fortunes, particularly primetime host Rachel Maddow, whose show averaged 2.89 million total viewers last year, a 12 percent gain from 2017. (She still trails Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who averaged 3.25 million viewers for original episodes in 2018.)
“Morning Joe” viewership may have received a backhanded boost from President Trump himself, who often inveighs against the program and its hosts on Twitter.
Last August, he called “Morning Joe” a “dead show” with “very few people watching.” Trump’s cutting personal attacks on the appearance of Brzezinski back in 2017 dominated the new cycle for days and greatly raised the program’s profile.
Scarborough and Brzezinski frequently invoke their past friendship with Trump — who made friendly appearances on the show as recently as 2015 — and have said multiple times that Trump has evolved considerably from the man they used to know.