The reelection of President Barack Obama was certainly a gratifying victory for Democrats and supporters of a moderate path forward for America. However, it also seems to have been a victory for the left-of-center cable news network, MSNBC.
Fox News has been dominating the cable news ratings for about a decade. The primary reason for that is their having corralled all of the right-wing viewers while everyone else is scattered amongst the other networks. Nevertheless, that distinction gives them bragging rights and an over-sized reputation.
However, for the days (two, so far) that have followed the election, MSNBC has usurped the leader’s crown and ascended to become the number one network in cable news for primetime. In fact, on Thursday MSNBC beat Fox for the whole broadcast day. MSNBC performed well above their third quarter averages for their primetime programming, which had already outperformed their 2011 third quarter by more than twenty percent.
Almost every primetime program on MSNBC beat their Fox competition. The only exception was Ed Schultz who is up against Fox’s highest rated show, the O’Reilly Factor. Schultz, however, did increase his own ratings considerably, just not enough to surpass O’Reilly.
The standouts were Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell who trounced Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren, respectively. Maddow exceeded Hannity by 27% on Wednesday and a whopping 75% on Thursday. O’Donnell dunked Van Susteren on Wednesday by 64% and by 32% on Thursday.
This isn’t a one-time occurrence either. In September MSNBC bested Fox during the Democratic convention. Then they repeated their win after the release of the famous “47%” video of Romney secretly recorded at a Florida fundraiser.
It is notable that MSNBC achieved their win over Fox by growing their own audience while Fox’s audience remained fairly stable. So this isn’t a case of Fox’s viewers having tuned out the news after a depressing defeat. It remains to be seen whether this is a mere bump in the election afterglow, or a serious turnaround in the cable ratings race. But it is clear that there is room for MSNBC to grow and make a credible challenge to Fox’s dominance.