If you are looking for a reason why CNN was so eager to push Larry King out of his long running talk show and into cable news retirement, look no further than the July ratings where MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow defeated Larry King for the sixth straight month and for the seventeenth time in twenty four months, and her audience continues to grow.
From the MSNBC press release, “The Rachel Maddow Show” beat CNN’s “Larry King Live” for the sixth month in a row among both total viewers and A25-54, out-drawing King by 50 percent among A25-54 (236,000 vs. 157,000) and by 37 percent in total viewers (891,000 vs. 652,000). July marks the 17th month “The Rachel Maddow Show” has beaten “Larry King Live” in its 23 months.” Those are some pretty solid numbers for Rachel Maddow’s unabashedly wonkish MSNBC program. Maddow managed to defeat King without the benefit of celebrity guests that King features.
Even though CNN is struggling mightily in prime time, they used their press release to point out just the ratings decline of what they referred to as Fox News’ non-news programming, “Both FNC’s news and non-news programs posted substantial audience loss when comparing July to their peak in January 2010, with the network’s audience dropping off by 20-33% every hour during the day in the demo 25-54. FNC’s non-news program Fox and Friends was down 21%, Your World with Cavuto was down 33%, Glenn Beck was off 33%, The O’Reilly Factor declined 26%, Hannity lost 29% of its audience and On the Record was down 29%. Other double-digit demo losses included the 9a hour (-26%), 10a (-20%), 11a (-27%), Noon (-32%), 1p (-26%), 2p (-26%), 3p (-30%), 6p (-32%) and 7p (-32%).”
As Mediaite recently pointed out Maddow is becoming a player in the ratings, “Rachel Maddow further cemented her place as a ratings player at MSNBC, especially in Keith Olbermann’s absence, with a strong performance Thursday night. Her 9pmET show nearly doubled Larry King in the A25-54 demographic and was the only non-FNC program to have more than one million total viewers.”
Overall, FNC is still the dominant network. They are the third highest rated network in all of cable and have more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined. The contempt that the folks at CNN have for Fox News’ non-news programming as they called it almost jumps off the page. CNN has a whole lot of problems, especially in prime time, so while I am sure that pointing out FNC’s drop felt good, unlike MSNBC, they stayed far away from discussing the ratings of their individual programs.
It isn’t any surprise that Rachel Maddow is dominating CNN. Larry King went stale a long time ago, however I think her ability to draw an audience with the kind of show that she does, calm, understated, and fact based, shows that there is an audience out there for programming that is willing to actually be more journalistic than entertainment. Whoever CNN hires is going to face an uphill battle against Maddow.
If I were running CNN I would dump the ideas for a Crossfire revival, and the celebrity interview show. Instead take a page from Maddow’s book. Start treating viewers like they are smart and offer them an intelligent alternative. CNN needs an identity in prime time in the worst way. Keith Olbermann may still have MSNBC’s top show, but Rachel Maddow is the real rising star. Her show has a unique style that seems to reflect her interests, and the bad news for the rest of cable news is that she is expanding her audience.