MSNBC may have managed their 8th consecutive quarterly second-place finish in the cable news ratings race, but their streak may be about to end with the recent resurgence of CNN.
In September CNN made significant inroads against MSNBC in primetime, reducing the once formidable lead the liberal network had against the former cable news champ.
The biggest gain for CNN was at 8 p.m. where they moved Anderson Cooper’s AC360 program to replace the ratings challenged Eliot Spitzer. AC360 beat The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell in that time slot by a margin of 212,000-185,000 viewers, which represented an increase of 36% compared to last year, while O’Donnell lost 35% or a whopping 100,000 viewers.
The weak showing by O’Donnell also affected Rachel Maddow who saw her lead narrow from a margin of 125,000 (289,000-164,000) to a margin of 52,000 (245,000-193,000) as Piers Morgan caught the AC360 wave.
Even worse for MSNBC is that The Ed Show was soundly beaten by a repeat of AC360, by a margin of 269,000-199,000 at 10 p.m.
MSNBC saw some of its audience flee to Keith Olbermann, who moved to the equivalent of cable television Siberia at Current TV. He is averaging 50,000 viewers in the A25-54 demo, but would still trail CNN even if those numbers were added back in to O’Donnell’s totals.
While one month’s ratings doesn’t make a trend, MSNBC executives should be worried about the threat CNN poses to their current position in the ratings, as the momentum is clearly in CNN’s favor.
CNN isn’t going to catch cable news leader Fox News anytime soon, but considering that they have endured several third and forth place finishes in the ratings over the last year, beating MSNBC for second place would be a major victory for them and a huge defeat for MSNBC.