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MSNBC May Soon Eclipse Fox News in Viewership

MSNBC May Soon Eclipse Fox News in Viewership

Stephanie Ruhle
MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle via screenshot

MSNBC rises while Fox — and CNN — sink.

As CNN and Fox News struggle with staffing tumult, liberal-leaning MSNBC is reveling in their chaos and rising precipitously in the ratings — with major repercussions for how Americans consume news and understand the world.

Hundreds of thousands of viewers ditched Fox News when the network fired superstar anchor Tucker Carlson in April, while CNN has been dealing with declining ratings for much longer and suffered even more erosion after its lurch to the center under former CEO Chris Licht and a messy May town hall with Donald Trump. MSNBC news programs like Katy Tur Reports, The Beat With Ari Melber, and All In With Chris Hayes have seen gains in both total viewership and the coveted demographic of viewers aged 25-54. The Rachel Maddow Show, which airs only on Mondays, is a powerhouse — earlier this month, the show helped MSNBC beat its rival networks in total viewership for the day, with the out journalist attracting nearly 2.5 million viewers. Even with its diminished frequency, The Rachel Maddow Show in June saw 36 percent growth year over year in overall viewers and an increase of 29 percent in the younger demographic, according to The Daily Beast.

While MSNBC easily beats floundering CNN — which recently saw the firing not only of Licht but of high-profile gay journalist Don Lemon — it is still (narrowly) beaten by Fox News during prime time.

"For the month of June, meanwhile, MSNBC closed the gap with Fox at night, falling just 174,000 total viewers short of the conservative cable giant in overall viewers and a mere 4,000 in the demo," according to The Daily Beast. "Last month, Fox averaged 1.49 million primetime total viewers and 148,000 in the demographic, shedding a troubling 54 percent in the demo compared to last year."

MSNBC has seen double-digit growth among total viewers and young viewers both in year-over-year metrics and since the first quarter of 2023.

The question for media watchers is whether those new MSNBC viewers are siphoned from CNN or are fresh TV news viewers. And when it comes to Fox News — known for spreading disinformation on everything from the 2020 election (see the network's nearly $800 million settlement to Dominion Voting Systems) to transgender youth — those lost viewers are likely fueling the growth at even shadier networks like Newsmax. Speaking of Newsmax, the far-right echo chamber recently beat CNN in the ratings, following the latter's Trump town hall.

Both CNN and Fox News are trying to rebound though, with CNN reversing some of Licht's decisions and Fox announcing Jesse Watters — known for racist, misogynistic, and transphobic segments — taking over Carlson's former prime-time slot.

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