The rule of thumb is that when news is breaking and a crisis is unfolding, cable news networks see a big jump in viewership. Turns out that’s not the case if you are MSNBC. On the first full day of coverage of the Malaysia Airlines disaster and Israeli troop movement into Gaza the day before, the Comcast-owned news channel actually was down double digits among adults 25-54 both in total day and in primetime on July 18. While rivals CNN and Fox News Channel were up 16% and 13% in total day over the comparable day last year, when the news was much quieter to say the least, MSNBC fell 38% to a mere 87,000.
Take a look at primetime, the numbers get even harsher for MSNBC with a 46% fall in the demo to 118,000 from July 19, 2013 compared to a rise of 16% and 30% for FNC and CNN. Winning in all categories on Friday and benefiting from the breaking news, FNC had 268,000 among 25-54s for total day and 323,000 during primetime. Seeing an uptick as it commonly does during breaking news, the often ratings struggling Time Warner-owned network got 208,000 in the demo total day and 263,000 in primetime.
By the way, it wasn’t like MSNBC weren’t covering the stories wall-to-wall as cable news networks do. Like their competition, the network devoted its entire night to the plane crash and the situation in the Middle East from The Ed Show at 5 PM to a guest hosted Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell at 10 PM. When news of the crash in the former USSR territory and the military action Gaza first broke the previous day, MSNBC saw a 20% rise in total viewership in primetime over the comparable day of July 18, 2013 and a 4% demo dip.
The news was a better for the cable news network in terms of total viewers on July 18 this year but still far behind its rivals. MSNBC saw a 3% slip in total day to 427,000 and a mere 2% growth in primetime to 602,000. FNC beat CNN and MSNBC put together among total viewers for both the total day and primetime with 1.473 million (up 16% from a year ago) and 1.905 million (up 21% from a year ago).