Just like when the party conventions concluded and the DNC’s superior production boosted the audience for MSNBC’s primetime programming, the release of the crippling video of Mitt Romney dismissing half the nation as moochers is having a positive effect on MSNBC as well.
On Monday, Rachel Maddow crushed Sean Hannity scoring 32% more viewers in the key advertiser demo of adults 25-54. Also, Chris Matthews’ Hardball beat Shepard Smith and Lawrence O’Donnell topped Greta Van Susteren.
Last night (Tuesday), Rachel again rolled over Hannity by an even larger margin (37%). And O’Donnell continued his dominance of Van Susteren. On both nights MSNBC took the total primetime time period from Fox News. These wins are significant in that they don’t occur very often. What’s more, they are routing Fox’s perennial winners without any special programming along the lines of a convention or debate. This is strictly news driven.
However, even more noteworthy is that Maddow’s demo numbers on Tuesday were the highest in all of the cable news primetime schedule. She even bested Bill O’Reilly by 3% despite the fact that O’Reilly’s guest was Jon Stewart who ought to have drawn in the younger viewers that ordinarily shun O’Reilly. With his devoted older-skewing viewers, plus the kids from Stewart’s heavily promoted guest appearance, O’Reilly should have run away with the night.
Maddow’s decisive victory suggests that there is something brewing in the cable news game. Viewers are responding to the editorial content of MSNBC and its most dynamic presenters. It’s still way too soon to make definitive statements or projections, but the gathering trends are promising.
Now all MSNBC has to do is capitalize on the new attention they are receiving and bring in new talent. Ed Schultz, who has not been contributing to this upswing, may be due for a makeover or a co-host. And there’s no need to repeat Hardball in the early evening when a new show could could broaden the audience. My long-shot pick: I’d give former Rep. Anthony Weiner a shot. If Eliot Spitzer can get a show on Current, Weiner should have a second chance too. He’s smart, experienced, and entertaining. And the publicity would help bring in a curious audience.
[Update] O’Donnell beat Van Susteren again on Wednesday.