It was only a couple of months ago when MSNBC was crowing about having beaten CNN in prime time viewership for the second straight year. But thanks to unfolding world events, they have lost that momentum and now trail the former cable news kingpin.
The latest dose of bad news for the network came as a result of events in Japan and Libya that have sent viewers flocking to CNN, which is actually covering the news on a regular basis.
MSNBC, which has long had a policy of being a Monday-Friday network. Last weekend was no different as they aired “Lockup,” a documentary series about problem prisons rather than devote much time or resources to Japan and Libya.
As a result MSNBC only managed to attract 254,000 prime time viewers on Saturday in the key A25-54 demographic compared to 678,00 for CNN and 353,00 for Fox News. They managed to do a little better on Sunday garnering 298,000 viewers to CNN’s 442,000 and Fox News’ 344,000.
But on weeknights, which has been MSNBC’s strength, they have also slipped to third place over the last two weeks, consistently losing almost every time slot, though Rachel Maddow did bounce back on Monday but still trailed Piers Morgan by a slim margin.
For the last week CNN tallied 1.453 M viewers in prime time compared to 808,000 at MSNBC, leading the network to a ninth place finish in the overall cable ratings while MSNBC managed only to reach 27th place.
CNN is benefiting from its strong international presence which will only last as long as there is hot news to cover overseas, but the long term effect of this temporary shift in viewers might be to peel off enough of MSNBC’s audience that they will become competitive again. That is as long as they don’t go back to what I call their muddled middle political strategy when world events cool down.
The real problem for MSNBC’s liberal lineup, which has grown fat off of Bush bashing and now Republican congress bashing, is that Obama’s Libyan policy is driving them nuts. But if they are too harsh (and they would have been all over Bush) they risk driving away their audience.
Where is Keith Olbermann when you need him to put things into perspective?