MSNBC’s Hard News Makeover Boosts Viewership, But Younger Demo Shrinks

Since tacking back to hard news in its 1-5 p.m. block, network is up double digits in total viewers, down the same in 25-54 demo

MSNBC President Phil Griffin, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow (Getty Images)

MSNBC’s hard news makeover is breathing signs of life into the network’s stagnant ratings while simultaneously shrinking its younger demo viewership.

The network began the shift in March after canceling Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid’s early afternoon programs in favor of Thomas Roberts anchoring from 1-3 p.m. ET.

That change has boosted viewership in Monday-Friday ratings from 1-2 p.m. by 16 percent while shrinking the advertising-coveted 25-54 demo by 17 percent over the previous year, when Farrow hosted. For the 2-3 p.m slot, viewership is up 9 percent with the demo down 19 percent compared to the previous year, when Reid hosted.

At the end of July, MSNBC canceled its entire 3-5 p.m. opinion lineup, which included “The Cycle,” “Now” with Alex Wagner and the “Ed Show” with Ed Schultz, temporarily replacing it with rotating anchors and hard news.

From August to the beginning of October, that time slot is up 12 percent in viewers, but down 16 percent in the demo compared to the previous year.

Important to note is that those ratings numbers are derived from a narrow time sample and include less than one month of Brian Williams anchoring breaking news.

But the double-digit losses among younger viewers occurred while cable news networks enjoyed the ratings boost of the presidential race and the Pope’s visit to America.

And in a very small sample size, one week of “MTP Daily” with Chuck Todd was down double digits in both total viewers and demo viewers: 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively. A clearer view of the daily show’s impact on ratings will be seen over the course of several weeks.

MSNBC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment regarding its ratings.