“Rachel Maddow new cable news champ as MSNBC surges.” This is likely a headline you’ve read or heard some variation of multiple times this year.
The rise of Maddow’s program led the media to create a narrative about Fox News being on the decline under the Trump administration. Sure, MSNBC has made gains — but the Fox News brand remains king.
Earlier this year, after a decade on the air, 44-year-old Maddow finally found her footing in the ratings race against CNN and Fox News. She won big in the critical 25- to 54-year-old demographic — but did so by embarrassing herself. She hyped a big “scoop” about the president’s taxes — when all she had were two measly pages of Trump’s 2005 1040 form. It was Maddow’s biggest audience ever — 4.13 million viewers.
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The tax return story was the progressive media’s desperate attempt to show possible Russian collusion in Trump’s rise to power, but all her “scoop” ended up revealing was that Trump paid a lot in taxes in 2005.
Maddow was widely mocked on social media for lacking the damning evidence she had originally hyped.
Maddow, however, learned this: Hyping various White House controversies and the Russia-Trump bogeyman night after night padded her ratings. MSNBC’s progressive star discovered she could sell random data points as part of a bigger Russia conspiracy — and a conspiracy-minded audience ready to pounce would fill in the gaps on its own.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into the Russia scandal and I don’t regret that, and I intend to be as aggressive as I possibly can on that story because here is a scandal that is of transcendent, historic importance and is existentially about whether or not this presidency should exist or whether it is the product of a crime,” Maddow told The Hollywood Reporter in April.
Despite the undeniable gains by Maddow, this doesn’t mean MSNBC is number one. Nor is perpetual ratings basement-dweller CNN. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The Nielsen ratings for July determined that Fox News Channel continues to rank as number one across cable in total daytime viewers for the 13th straight month. America also still turns to FNC in prime time, as the channel remained number one there, too. Seven of the top 10 shows in news programming continue to belong to Fox. FNC continues to finish ahead of MSNBC in the total weekly viewers, partially because of its original weekend programming. MSNBC usually runs prison documentaries that few people watch.
FNC’s popular morning program, “Fox and Friends,” is “on pace to have its highest-rated year in network history,” TVNewser reported.
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Fox also remained on top for the 11th straight week in primetime ratings for July 31 to August 6, according to Nielsen.
MSNBC’s hold on primetime ratings has been, at best, tenuous, and certainly it’s an anomaly in its 21-year history. Fox still draws more overall viewers and has far more daytime viewers than any of its competitors.
Despite much shuffling of primetime stars in the Fox schedule, many new stars have risen at the network this year and clobbered the competition in ratings. Tucker Carlson hit the ground running this year with a new primetime program that has drawn hefty ratings, especially in the much-coveted younger demographic.
While Maddow and MSNBC have made some gains in the ratings by catering to a far-left base, one news network has not had the same luck with channeling liberal anxiety.
In a recent undercover video from Project Veritas, a CNN producer was caught on tape admitting his network’s obsession with Russia-collusion stories was in the hope of garnering ratings — but CNN has seen a pitiful return on that investment.
In the month of July, the network finally started showing up in the top cable news program ratings, with “Anderson Cooper 360” landing at number 26. As for the rest of the summer, CNN found itself falling behind networks like HGTV and programming blocks such as “Nick At Nite.”
Instead of editorially finding its own ground somewhere between Fox News and MSNBC, CNN has tried to take on MSNBC. The network has had reporters such as Jim Acosta trying to lecture the president about immigration, and last week CNN fired Jeffrey Lord, its last Trump-supporting contributor, for a joke he made on social media.
Fox News Channel still remains the dominant voice in cable news based on overall viewership numbers and thanks to balanced daytime news programming.
Meanwhile, at the heart of the Russia narrative lies leftist media using their airwaves as therapy — because they remain in deep denial about the results of the November election. Unless and until MSNBC and CNN can come to terms with the results and start participating in honest news reporting again, they’ll remain fighting over the same narrow slice of the audience. In the meantime — Fox News’ dominance will likely remain safe.
(photo credit, homepage image: RenaudTR, Wikimedia; photo credit, article image: Steve Bott, Flickr)