MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” has struggled in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 since it premiered two weeks ago. That is the statistic that is likely to determine whether or not Williams receives a permanent primetime show.
Williams averaged 235,000 viewers in the key demo from Sept. 6-20, which trails “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” which averaged 293,000 demo viewers from 11-11:30 p.m. ET over the same time period.
Ratings juggernaut “The O’Reilly Factor” beat both CNN and MSNBC’s live shows with a replay of its 8 p.m. edition, averaging 367,000 for the first half of its repeat. However, the late-night repeat of O’Reilly regularly finishes among the Top 10 cable news shows, so this isn’t surprising.
What’s surprising is that Williams struggled despite a strong performance in total viewers. Williams new show averaged 1.09 million viewers, compared to 761,000 for CNN during the same time period. But total viewers don’t pay the bills. Advertisers look at 25-54 year olds when deciding where to spend their cash.
Through the first nine episodes of “The 11th Hour,” the show only beat CNN from 11-11:30 ET in the key demo twice. Both victories came during the show’s first three nights and Lemon has won six straight.
Williams’ show is down two percent compared to MSNBC’s 11-11:30 programming from Aug. 2016, but up a whopping 133 percent compared to the “All In with Chris Hayes” repeats that aired in that time slot back in Sept. 2015. In laymen’s terms, he’s crushing a show that nobody watched from a year ago but losing to the show he recently replaced.
The media veteran’s career had come full circle at MSNBC, where Williams began anchoring in primetime in 1996. Williams made his return to the airwaves last September as a breaking news anchor after a six-month suspension over fabrications he perpetuated about his reporting experience during the Iraq War.
Many media pundits have wondered what MSNBC will do with Williams after the presidential election, as his show is currently only billed as a “pop up broadcast” which will air nightly until Election Day. Williams has landed big-name guests including Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Chris Christie, and VP nominee Mike Pence.
While the show is very strong in total viewers and Williams still has the broadcasting chops to hang with anyone, he’ll need to attract more viewers between the ages of 25-54 if MSNBC is going to give him a permanent primetime gig.
Either way, Williams could easily pick up steam with a news-making interview or two before election day.