Really Bad TV Ratings for Morning Joe? Record-Breaking The ReidOut? Checking Ratings Claims About MSNBC

With a reduced number of shows on TV this summer, many have ended up watching more cable news than usual. With protests against the murder of George Floyd and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak still ongoing and presidential election heating up, the news networks certainly haven't had a lack of content lately. So, I decided to take a look at some claims regarding the left-leaning cable network MSNBC, claims that are both positive and negative about their programming.

President Trump attacks Morning Joe a lot. But are the ratings really that bad?

President Trump is clearly the most well-versed president in TV ratings that we've ever had. That makes sense, considering that he was a longtime television personality himself. Arguably, there is no show whose ratings the president likes to tweet more about than Morning Joe. The show is hosted by ex-Republican Representative Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, a Democrat who is the daughter of Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, and has been harshly critical of the president despite the hosts' prior connections to him. As such, Trump's tweets about their ratings are never positive. His most recent tweet, from just last week, can be seen below:

Though the president is clearly biased in this case, it's not 100% wrong. Morning Joe does regularly trail Fox & Friends in the ratings, and CNN's New Day is not a factor, with less than a million viewers and ratings in the 0.06-0.08 range. However, Fox & Friends being narrowly ahead in 18-49 ratings and ahead by a decent margin in viewership doesn't mean that Morning Joe is a flop. With an average of 1.3 million viewers in July, that is a very solid result for an early morning program. That's pretty much on-par with most of CNN's daytime lineup and not much lower than primetime shows like CNN Tonight. It's also in-line with a lot of MSNBC's shows in more desirable timeslots. Fox News clearly dwarfs Morning Joe in viewers, but the show is a valuable asset to MSNBC that has a large and dedicated audience. The timing of the president's claim of "really bad TV Ratings" is also highly suspect. It's drawing some of its highest viewership totals ever in recent months, and is up massively from the average 1 million viewers in the same month in 2018.

Is The ReidOut a smash hit? How do ratings stack up to the last months of Hardball?

The day after the premiere of new series The ReidOut, which replaced Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC's PR Twitter account tweeted out the following:

Quite frankly, the claim that The ReidOut was the top show in total viewers is disingenuous at best and a lie not based in this reality at worst. The ReidOut wasn't even MSNBC's top show for the night, being topped by The Rachel Maddow Show. It was the top show in its timeslot for the night (beating The Story on Fox News and doubling Erin Burnett OutFront on CNN), which MSNBC could claim was their meaning for the tweet, but that wasn't clear.

Depending on who you ask, The ReidOut is either a massive bomb or a record-breaking smash hit. The truth really lies somewhere in the middle. Ratings for the show have risen and fallen as other MSNBC shows rise, but for the most part, it grows a considerable amount from its lead-in (The Beat) in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos and in viewers, and doesn't rate much lower than its lead-out, the primetime series All In. It's no Maddow, but MSNBC is probably quite pleased with its solid performance thus far.

Near the end of its run, Hardball was regularly receiving ratings around the 0.10-0.14 mark in 18-49 and 1.5 million viewers (ranging from about 1.2 million to 1.7 million on any given day). So far, The ReidOut is a noticeable improvement on those results. The ReidOut has even been able to top Hardball's now-infamous March 2 episode in which host Chris Matthews announced his departure live on air with no prior warning (that episode drew a 0.2 in 18-49 and 2.1 million viewers, which ReidOut has surpassed multiple times).

Was Maddow's Mary Trump interview really the blockbuster hit many claimed it to be?

Rachel Maddow's July 16 interview with Mary L. Trump, niece of President Donald Trump, drew plenty of interest, and claims of its massive ratings were found in spades online. For the most part, those claims are true. The interview was the top-rated show of the night, and was the #3 show in 18-49 and #2 show in viewership for all of July on cable news. With over five million viewers, it also set a series high for Maddow's show, which was 4.5 million for her interview of Trump associate Lev Parnas. It also broke records for MSNBC and is their most-watched regularly-scheduled program in their twenty-four-year history (ratings for coverage of the 2016 presidential election drew higher ratings).

How does Deadline: White House stack up to the 4 PM competition now that it's being expanded?
Deadline: White House, hosted by former View co-host Nicolle Wallace, was recently expanded to two hours, as MSNBC is restructuring their daytime lineup. Wallace has been well-received online as the host of the political talker, and many lauded the network's decision to give her show another hour, with many blaming the move on low ratings for MTP Daily (we'll get to those claims in a minute) and saying that Wallace will boost the network. Claims that Wallace is a strong ratings performer for MSNBC are certainly fact-based. The show has risen a remarkable amount from when it started. It launched to just a 0.08 in the 18-49 demographic and 820,000 (!) viewers on May 9, 2017. By July 2018, it was averaging around 1.3 million viewers and a 0.12 in the 18-49s. In July 2020, Wallace's show was up an astounding amount in viewership, to over 2 million viewers, while staying relatively steady in the demo. That puts it ahead of CNN's The Lead and Fox News's Your World in total viewership. MSNBC rarely topples Fox News in head-to-head viewership battles, and it seems likely that Wallace's strong ratings were the reason for her promotion.

Are ratings the reason for MTP Daily's demotion from 5 PM to 1 PM?
Chuck Todd, host of MTP Daily, has been a pretty frequent criticism online, both by those on the left and those on the right (such as the president). When the move from 5 PM to 1 PM was announced, people made many claims about the show being a ratings flop. That's not entirely true. MTP Daily still regularly draws more viewers than its CNN competition, though it trails Fox News in its slot. However, it's a weaker performer in pretty much all metrics than Deadline: White House, which is getting its slot. 1 PM is a much worse slot than 5 PM, and it's certainly a demotion for MTP Daily, but MTP Daily's ratings are definitely not cancellation-worthy. MSNBC has been willing to pull the plug on flop shows, and though MTP Daily's ratings leave MSNBC somewhat unhappy, they aren't bad enough to be canceled.

What do you think of this in-depth look at MSNBC? Let me know in the comments below!

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