Saturday, August 31, 2013

Majority of Black Cable News Prime Time Viewers Watch MSNBC

With the month’s end come the cable news networks’ press releases, each trying to shape the same numbers into good news for themselves, and bad news for the other guys. In August, Fox News retained its perennial spot ahead of competitors CNN, MSNBC, and HLN, while CNNboasted improvements over last August’s numbers, and MSNBC emerged from a months-long slide into third place to retake the number two spot for the month (thanks to Phil Griffin‘spartial adherence to my plan). Included in MSNBC’s press release, though, was a bit of news about one area in which they completely dominate: black viewership.
Cable news ratings press releases are always an amusing exercise in spin, and August’s were no exception. While Fox News doesn’t have to do much polishing to burnish their 140 consecutive months at number one, CNN is fending off a nascent comeback by MSNBC, so their press release highlighted CNN’s improvement over last August’s ratings, and found whatever the opposite of a silver lining is for its competitors (from a CNN press release, via email):
MSNBC experienced major ratings declines in August losing almost one half of its M-F primetime audience, while registering its lowest total viewer delivery since December 2007, and its lowest among P25-54 since August 2006. MSNBC, fueled this month by the strong performance of the network’s doc series “MSNBC Investigates” (Lock Up) and “MSNBC Specials” (Caught on Camera) also posted its lowest M-Su prime delivery among total viewers since December 2007.
This month, FXNC has posted some of its lowest ratings in over a decade, registering its lowest delivery in total day and M-F/M-Su primetime since August 2001 in the key demo 25-54 rating. FXNC also saw its lowest primetime delivery since July 2008 in total viewers.
Of course, MSNBC boasted about their emergence from third place, and engaged in a little bit of knife-twisting at the expense of CNN’s new morning program, New Day (from an MSNBC press release, via email):
“Morning Joe” continues to top CNN’s “New Day” among total viewers and A25-54. Despite highly promoted exclusive bookings including President Obama, Prince William and Mark Zuckerberg, “New Day” hit a new weekly ratings low week for August 19th with 78,000 A25-54. “New Day” is also down -23% among A25-54 from July 2013, the show’s first full month on the air.
Also included in MSNBC’s press release was this blurb:
MSNBC is #1 in delivering total African American viewers for the 43rd month among M-Su Prime
Earlier this year, we reported on MSNBC’s massive 60% increase in black viewership in 2012, and according to the Nielsen Company’s August ratings, that domination has continued. Between 8pm and 11 pm, Monday-Friday, MSNBC was #1 with African-American viewers, who made up 38% of their audience. In that same time period, 23 percent of CNN’s audience was African-American, versus 3 percent for Fox News.
A full 51% of all black cable news viewers were watching MSNBC in that time period, versus 28% for CNN, 14% for HLN, and 7% for Fox News.
MSNBC also ranked #1 among Hispanic viewers in weekday prime time for August, the first month since December 2012 that the network has ranked #1 in this demographic. Hispanic viewers accounted for 15% of MSNBC’s audience in the time period, versus 8 % for CNN, and 6% for Fox News. Among all Hispanic viewers watching cable news in prime time, MSNBC had 40%, Fox News had 30%, CNN 19%, and HLN 11%.
Race has figured heavily in the progressive politics that are MSNBC’s bread and butter in recent news cycles, but a Pew survey a few months ago indicates that black news consumers are more engaged than whites on a broad range of issues. Whatever MSNBC is doing right, the other networks could use to figure out a way to compete for this audience.