Obama Documentary Lifts MSNBC to Highest-Rated Friday Night Ever

4.2 million people tuned into the premiere of “The Way I See It,” propelling MSNBC above Fox News and CNN

Barack Obama DNC

4.2 million people tuned into MSNBC last Friday night between 10 p.m. ET and 11:40 p.m. ET for the premiere of the Barack Obama documentary “The Way I See It,” handing the cable news network its highest-rated Friday night ever.

MSNBC’s premiere of the film about the former president also propelled it above Fox News and CNN, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings data, placing it in the No. 2 spot in total viewers for Friday. It became MSNBC’s highest-rated non-news, non-live program ever.

In the advertiser-coveted age demographic of 25 to 54, “The Way I See It” brought in 613,000 average viewers in the time slot, too.

Demo ratings are big in cable news and from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday, Fox News did still eke out the win: 627,000 average demo viewers watched Fox News while 505,000 average demo viewers watched MSNBC. Only an average of 410,000 demo viewers tuned into CNN for those two hours.

The documentary is the first project from NBC News Studios, which launched earlier this year, and was co-presented by Focus Features and MSNBC Films. It was directed by Dawn Porter and produced by Evan Hayes, Laura Dern and Jayme Lemons. The film looks behind the scenes at the presidencies of Obama, a Democrat, and Ronald Reagan, a Republican, showing their administrations and lives through the eyes of official White House photographer Pete Souza.

After a virtual private screening hosted by NBC News’ Nicolle Wallace, Porter said the Obamas became emotional watching the film: “It’s always really stressful when you show people who are in a movie the movie for the first time. This as you can imagine was particularly stressful. They laughed and cried. I saw the first lady lean over to the president many times and say, ‘Oh, remember that?’ It was just really, really, really special to see them and I do believe the president teared up a few times, too, which just was very cool.”


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