On Meet the Press today, it wasn’t Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann, or Chris Matthews that was giving the progressive perspective on health care, but it was Rachel Maddow, who has seen her ratings soar as the nation debates health care reform. Maddow’s show has been rivaling Olbermann’s program as the top draw on MSNBC, and she could become the network’s biggest star.
While Olbermann has seen his ratings dip by 4% over the past couple of weeks, at the same time his rival Bill O’Reilly is reaching new heights on Fox News Channel, Maddow’s show is solidly in second place behind FNC’s Hannity, and she has averaged over a million total viewers on three of the last four nights for which ratings are available. Maddow also finished within 100,000 total viewers of Olbermann in three of the last four nights.
It would be easy to say that Maddow’s show is growing because of the health care debate, but that would not be 100% accurate. Ed Schultz also talks about health care on a nightly basis on his show, but he has not experienced the kind of growth in viewership that Maddow has. More than anything, her recent success is based on the type of show she has.
In comparison to Olbermann, whose shtick does wear thin after a while, Maddow actually discusses policy, and gasp, she is not afraid to have a guest on that disagrees with her. Unlike almost all of the primetime talkers out there, Rachel Maddow has tried to explain where the misinformation in the health care debate is coming from. She doesn’t yell like the other MSNBC hosts, but instead she attempts to inform from a progressive point of view.
Maddow has been going after Dick Armey’s Freedom Works on an almost nightly basis on her program, so it made sense that NBC would have her and Armey on Meet the Press today. However, it looks like there could be something else going on here. Could NBC be looking at making Maddow, not Olbermann the face of MSNBC? There has been griping over at NBC News about MSNBC’s strongly opinionated move to the left. Maddow could represent the style that NBC would prefer its cable sister adopt.
Rachel Maddow more than held her own today, so if this was a test for her, she passed it with flying colors. If her popularity keeps growing, I could see Rachel Maddow doing more crossing over to NBC. A program like Keith Olbermann’s will always be polarizing, but Maddow might have found a formula that can help MSNBC take the next step in growth.