MSNBC Ratings Drop Post-Keith Olbermann

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It looks like MSNBC is paying a big price in the ratings department after summarily firing Keith Olbermann.

MSNBC rushed to replace “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” with the “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 8PM. O’Donnell, the bright, former U.S. Senate aide and “West Wing” TV producer got his own MSNBC show late last year.

O’Donnell’s new Monday show, when weekend media coverage of Olbermann’s firing and, coupled by the fact that the show was still listed as “Countdown” by most DVRs, would draw an audience to MSNBC. Plus, Tuesday’s show had the State of the Union address as its led-in, should’ve helped as well.

Yet ratings sagged for “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” compared with the week before, according to same-day Nielsen figures that Brad Adgate of Horizon Media ran at the request of the Kansas City Star.

Here are the grim numbers for O’Donnell’s program:

· 332,000 viewers in the prime 25-to-54-year-old demographic watched “Last Word” on Monday, less than Olbermann one week earlier

· That number rose only slightly on SOTU night, to 359,000 viewers in the demo (compared with 260,000 the week before)

· Wednesday’s show drew just 219,000 viewers ages 25-54 compared with 248,000 for “Countdown” one week prior

Even more ominous for MSNBC is this: CNN’s “Parker Spitzer,” which was routinely trounced by “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” is now competitive against “Last Word.” In the all-important 25-54 age demographic favored by advertisers, “Parker Spitzer” came within 50,000 viewers of “Last Word” on Wednesday. One week earlier, with Olbermann still on at 8 p.m, the gap was nearly 2-to-1.

“Last Word” did get a lift on Monday in total viewers, drawing 1.53 million people to its first broadcast in the new time period. But only 1.34 million tuned in the next night and 1.08 million on Wednesday, suggesting that the viewers who were going to sample the new guy’s show already have.

By comparison, “Parker Spitzer” is drawing an audience less than half that size yet competing in the demo. This suggests that CNN is poised for a comeback very much along the lines of what Olbermann engineered at MSNBC, ignoring total viewership and just targeting those all-important 25-54 viewers.

Indeed, that was already happening at 9PM, when CNN appeared to get its groove back thanks to a new host. “Piers Morgan Tonight” beat Rachel Maddow four out of five nights last week in the key demographic and that was with Keith Olbermann as her lead-in.

MSNBC is fortunate to have a rich parent. Comcast can easily absorb these dips in audience share — at least in the immediate weeks and months ahead but at the end of the day, MSNBC is a for-profit business and Comcast, will eventually be forced to examine the business model of their evening cable line-up.

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29 Responses to MSNBC Ratings Drop Post-Keith Olbermann

  1. Robbie says:

    This is really bad news for Rachel Maddow. Without Keith as a lead in, she will struggle against Piers Morgan, whose show I like.

  2. Arizona Leatherneck says:

    I haven’t watched MSNBC since they canned KO.

    He and I go way back to his sports announcing days. I like him and I think he’s a brilliant political commenter. But, he’s also not afraid to put the screws to management and with the Comcast merger, I expected MSNBC to shift further to the right.

    I was correct. KO’s boss, Phil Griffin, sees him as a loose canon and not a valuable asset. Well, these ratings prove the MSNBC line up, despite having a number of very talented people, just doesn’t work without KO as the centerpiece.

    May the remaining MSNBC talent find a niche. My thinking is, it won’t be on MSNBC. They will go the way of CNN which is to think they can mount an effective battle with Fox. Good luck with that.

  3. Tim Waters says:

    I’m glad you got the stats on this. I looked but couldn’t find anything.
    I know Keith is a little nuts, but hell we all are a tad crazy. I wonder of Keith and Schuster will do radio and take on Rush.

  4. retahyajyajav says:

    I was always an on-and-off MSNBC viewer.

    When an important political story was breaking, like an election, I watched Keith and sometimes, I watched Rachel. Never really watched Ed Shultze and I don’t think I ever saw Lawrence O’Donnell.

    Keith is very smart and extremely apt at breaking through the filter and getting to the heart of a story or an issue. I don’t think he’s nuts at all. But he strikes me as someone not willing to swallow the dog turd if his boss tells him to. I like that about him.

  5. Eric Equality Kuntz says:

    Plus, MSNBC is now booking Comcast guests.

    Alex “Ellie Mae Clampet” Witt gave an on-air BJ to some guy from Comcast this Saturday, going on and on about how she was “welcoming him to the family of MSNBC journalists.” I thought I was watching soft porn.

  6. lea-lea says:

    You know what’s so strange about MSNBC? The world is in the midst of a major political shift in Egypt with the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule and Sudan voted 99% to split into two separate nations and you want to know what MSNBC has on now?

    A taped crime story. They have no business calling themselves a cable news network if they only broadcast 40 hours a week, M-F, when the sun is out.

  7. Ash says:

    Firing Olbermann was probably the stupidest executive decision I’ve ever seen. I was a nightly MSNBC viewer, in that all-important demo everyone keeps going on about. Well, never again. I’ve removed MSNBC from my channel guide, I don’t even see it when I’m surfing.

    I won’t go into specific detail on why I find the other MSNBC hosts to be distasteful, but let’s just say that KO has more charisma than all of them combined. Like many expat Countdown fans, I’ve found and followed Keith on Twitter (ugh), where he continues to be a shining diamond in an ocean of crap. Kind of like he was at MSNBC, actually.

  8. libhomo says:

    Comcast doesn’t care. They will extract plenty of money from Internet content providers in violation of Net Neutrality.

  9. Jolly Roger says:

    I’m certainly done with them. The Ed Show and Countdown were almost all the regular “news” TV I watched.

    I can still catch Big Eddie on the radio.

  10. Jamie Erhardt says:

    I checked the new lineup last week. It was as though Keith was on vacation or worse, had died. There was no trace of him. No mention of his legacy and his contribution to MSNBC. No question about it now: there’s a hole in the lineup and it can’t be filled with Lawrence O’Donnell.

  11. Estacada says:

    KO tweets up a storm these days.

    A lot of them are funny, some political. But he’s very much aware of how his fans miss him.

  12. Mohamud Ali says:

    Keither Olbermann was great and smart man , i feel very bad he is no more there in MSNBC , what ever the dispute , keith should not be fired or let him go. I lost the intrest watching MSNBC , i paid extra money to have MSNBC
    in toronto and i hardly watch without keith , no Body can challenge the crazy fox news , he was the only one who show the people how stupid the fox news is , Fox tv news is celebrating becaause kith is no more there , too bad for MSNBC.

    m. aLI

  13. Woodcliffe says:

    When I heard that Phil Griffin orchestrated the termination of Keith Olbermann to make his new, corporate masters at Comcast feel happy and safe, I fought back the urge to hurl on my living room rug.

    For me, MSNBC no longer exists.

  14. Sean says:

    Why couldn’t have Comcast bought Fox? I know, I know…just kidding.

  15. Randy Arroyo says:

    No Keith, No MSNBC. Those are the viewing rules at my crib.

  16. Kit Pendell says:

    It just isn’t the same without Keith in that 8pm time slot. Lawrence is very nice and tries hard but he is totally tepid compared to Keith. Even Rachel doesn’t seem to have her usual brilliant sparkle without Keith as a lead in. This was a HUGE mistake for MSNBC. I used to watch them every night. Now I just channel surf looking for something to fill the void. Of all times to fire one of the very few voices who told it like it is. Did the Republicans buy you, too?! Ugh.

  17. John L. Carriker says:

    Keeith Olbermann is unique, he cannot be replaced, he exposed the greed, hypocrisy, abuse of power, regarddless of where it led.I watched him since 03 as Bush and his gang were dismantling our country. We need him back. Following, just some of the things I learned from Keith….

    An example of media triviality, and watch, at the exposure of the rightwing groups as they get their coverage of the Republican Bobble-Heads talking points. “Death Panels”, “Obama Care”, “Government Take-Over”, “Government Run Health Care”, “Where Are the Jobs”, sound familiar? These are but a few. It would be very enlightening to know just how many times the media played these brief but telling quips!
    Additionally, the three following issues should be major concerns for all American citizens who love our country, equality, freedom and democracy: 1st. The unheralded activism of some of our most respected legal minds, Supreme Court judges. At least three have participated in Party Retreats, and conservative Republican Party meetings behind closed doors. 2nd. Then a Majority decision regarding campaign finance, in which it (CITIZENS UNITED) has given a major advantage to one party and opened the flood gates for possible election fraud. 3rd. The rule of the airwaves with hate filled rhetoric, without any accountability standards governed by Truth and Facts. Radio “talking-heads” can say anything they desire and not have to account for the veracity of what they report as truthful news. Corporate influences have initiated these conditions, what both parties, the White House and Corporate America seems not to understand; as the middle class is continuing to be dismantled, they (middle class), become more dependent upon, either the Government and or Corporate America. And when all is taken away, they become totally dependent. Then when they are not taken care of properly (which is a complete certainty, just look at how entitlements are castigated now), the hoi polloi will rise up in mass protest. (I’m sure the ruling class in Egypt never gave it a thought)

    John L. Carriker A voice from Kansas

  18. It was a big mistake for MSNBC to fire KO, smart and charming. Well
    I dont have a choice I have to watch Aderson cooper until the coming of KO.

  19. nickwolf says:

    The truth…stings!….and Oberman was the best “counter puncher” in the business! Constantly proving that Fox news is “fake” news, by the time he was done anybody could take Fox to court and prove they are Faux Spews!
No commentator on Faux ever….i repeat…..ever debates the issues in public! They are petrified of being exposed! Put Oberman or Maddow on a panel….put O’Reilly and Beck on the other and it would be wholesale slaughter. Facts will kill Fox…the only problem is that the Religious Theocratic Fascist Right, never deals in facts! So there we are…stuck between a ginned up ignorant mob let by Judas Goats that make millions pouring them whiskey lies…..and the rest of America that actually use their reason and the brains that Evolution gave them to solve real proplems. Progressives solve problems Faux creates them….where they don’t exist.
    Now MSNBC has been taken over by a Corporate giant, who’s Corporate profits rely on the Bull that Fox spews for the lobbyists. They didn’t want the truth out their so they bothered their star player and made him leave! This is what happens to people who try to champion “The Peoples Causes” like Keith did! Shame on them….but they do it all the time…thats the real civil war thats coming…its not just Egypt thats under these bums thumbs! We are too! Eventually even the Tea mould party will realize who’s hitting them in the head and join the real peoples movement! Oberman was about to have a hugh bump in ratings…now that Obama’s ratings are thru the roof and most people want the Health Care Reform to stay!!! Phil Griffin is either a moron or a pony boy for the Rich….their both bad for Americans!

  20. jonique says:

    ms ko terribly-perhaps he will re-surface on OWN ??????

  21. John says:

    Good to hear that MSNBC is paying the price for letting Keith go or firing him or whatever happened. Is it possible that Comcast wanted the ratings to go down so they could either fill the network with right wing idiots like fox or shut the whole thing down. Now we’ll see if Al Gore’s network will takeover as the number 2 news network with Keith onboard.

  22. jake hawkes says:

    I am a loyal Countdown fan working in India and I couldn’t get Countdown live so I patiently downloaded it every day. I say patiently because the broadband speeds here are AWFUL. Between it tripping off, the power going off and the slow speed it took half my day to nurse the download. So when I discovered Countdown had been cancelled, I became seriously depressed. Then discovering that the Huffington Post has been bought by AOL turned me practically suicidal.
    However, this news that Olbermann is coming back to TV has perked me up again and allowed me to put away my revolver.
    I better not find out I can’t get Current TV or…I don’t know what I will do…

  23. Debra says:


  24. Judy Gash says:

    My husband and I quit watching MSNBC for the most part since Keith was fired. We really liked all the shows except Last Word. Now I just push the button on my KO head bobber and listen to his voice. KO will be on Al Gore’s station in the same time slot starting in May. Yeah!!!

  25. Thanks for the stats. Keith Oblerman was NBC. I’m one of those guys who has switched to CNN. I’ve boycotted MSNBC. I can’t wait to see Keith’s new program.

  26. Iyabo says:

    I have always thought that Keith was too big for MSNBC wasting his talents in that position. I have been proved right.
    He is the only one worth watching in the whole damn station.
    Of course I do not waste my time with Fox and CNN
    I am excitedly looking forward to Keiths new Gig .
    Wish him the best

  27. andrea williams says:

    I love Rachael and Ed and I miss them but I will never, ever watch msnbc again because they fired Keith. That was the worst thing they could have ever done!!! Now I watch CNN, Real Time With Bill Maher, Daily Show and Colbert and continue to wait for the coming of Keith!

  28. Kristine says:

    I miss Keith! Lawrence O’Donnell is okay, but he reads sooooooo slowly, he bores me. He is not energetic enough to have his own show – maybe a co-host – like Nora O’Donnell would help liven it up. Bring Keith back!!!!!!!!!!! And I don’t like Radigan, Jake with the Icky squeeky voice, Ed Angry Shouts Shultz who whines way too much about Obama, and even Rachel has gotten boring with her 1 hour monologue of herself being a professor. Bring Keith Back! Or if another channel would have him, that is what I would be watching.

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