Christie’s Bridge-Gate Scandal Boosts Rachel Maddow To Ratings Victory Over Fox News

Rachel Maddow

The dominance of Fox News in the Nielsen ratings for cable networks has not been seriously challenged for most of the past several years. There have been periods that looked promising for the competition, particularly the months between the Democratic National Convention and the presidential election in 2012. During that time MSNBC was beating Fox on a regular basis as President Obama was doing the same to Mitt Romney. That trend was still in effect as late as January of 2013 when Fox reported steep declines in the key 25-54 demographic, while MSNBC shot upward.

Fox-MSNBC Ratings

However, that state of affairs did not hold as the nation settled into a new year with the excitement of electioneering behind them. There would be little drama in the ratings race for the next few months. Eventually, Fox would enjoy a rebound as they ramped up their coverage of various scandals that they had been carefully crafting with their Republican allies. But even then they were suffering losses of the younger viewers that advertisers favor.

Last week, however, saw an unexpected bounce for MSNBC, and particularly Rachel Maddow. Her ratings in the demo thrust her into the number one spot for the whole week, ahead of Fox’s newly minted prime time star Megyn Kelly. Chris Matthews also benefited by tying the week with Greta Van Susteren, and Lawrence O’Donnell scored clean victories over Sean Hannity on a couple of days. This turnaround was surprising during a post-holiday lull, but there is a possible reason for it.

Maddow and her colleagues may have Chris Christie to thank for their ratings success. Their rising fortunes began at the same time that Maddow broke the story of the George Washington Bridge tantrum thrown by the Christie camp as political payback to unsupportive Democrats.

Let’s face it…Scandals have the same power to drive ratings in political news as they do in soap operas. The last ratings spike that Maddow enjoyed was when a video of Romney appeared showing him casting aside 47% of the American electorate as lazy moochers. And, as mentioned above, Fox exploited their own scandal sheet last may to recover from a long slump.

What this tells us is that, in order for MSNBC to consistently rise above Fox, they need to have as effective a scandal factory as Fox has. That’s a tall order because Fox has big head start in manufacturing fake scandals and the phony outrage that accompanies them. And for a network like MSNBC that has yet to exhibit much of an aptitude for inventing controversies that don’t exist in reality, they have some catching up to do.

Of course, Republicans have been more than generous in producing scandals for themselves, as the Christie affair so clearly demonstrates. The problem is that the so-called liberal media has not been especially good at taking advantage of the opportunities that were laid in their lap. But if MSNBC or CNN want to seriously challenge Fox’s ratings dominance, they had better show some improvement in that area in the future.


17 thoughts on “Christie’s Bridge-Gate Scandal Boosts Rachel Maddow To Ratings Victory Over Fox News

  1. I know Maddow would never create a fake scandal for ratings, thank goodness. She was the first to bring the Christie bridge scandal to the national television media last month. She deserves her accolades for keeping up on this story and making it national in television and print. I also loved how she gave credit to the reporters at the Jersey paper who uncovered it first. She’s a class act, Megyn Kelly can never live up to Rachel’s standards and will always be a Fox flamethrower, all hat and no cattle.

  2. Yawn. Two days of 25-54 victory since last September. And if they are unable to directly tie Gov. Christie to the bridge scandal (which remains to be seen), the spike will be short-lived. I guess she’ll have to go back to smearing the Koch brothers, which got her smacked around by Politifact.

    • Actually it is Rachel who does a mighty fine job of smacking Politifact around. And she’s got the evidence to support her claims.

      • Rachel has nailed PolitiFact for saying something was false even though their explanation affirmed that it was true. But it is Jon Stewart who delivered the ultimate PolitiFact smackdown.

    • The business model of Fox News does make it difficult for a legitimate news journalist to compete with them. As Maddow generally refrains from manufactured narratives designed to titillate, she is at the mercy of the actual events of the day, i.e. she is not the ratings whore that Fox News is. The bridge scandal is fresh, it has not been fully fleshed out, and the full reach of the Koch brothers’ financial and political tentacles will take years to be fully grasped. To me, it is laughable that you apply the Politifact standard to Maddow, when the blatant sensationalism of Fox News is repeatedly discredited by Politifact. And there is the rub: where Maddow seeks to uncover the truth, Fox News seeks higher ratings. And the story that two brothers won the rich daddy lottery and are thereby able to alter politics in the U.S. should be a bigger story in the media.

    • Yeah Scott, I don’t know, just like you, if they will ever be able to tie the scandal to the governor.

  3. Scot walker is that you? Where are you these days? Collecting more more for legal troubles? Don’t see much of you here in WI. Course it’s hard to see you when you are being a tunnel rat.

    Btw – don’t get your hopes up about being POTUS. The national stage is a much tougher muddier than the some of the easily duped people here in WI.

    • Kathy Griffin is that you? Are you still walking around naked in front of Anderson Cooper? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t watch CNN’s New Years’Eve coverage.

      • Congratulations! In your quest to be witty you have reached the halfway point.

    • Scott Walker, like Christie, is too physically unattractive to be President.

  4. Never, ever, attempt to deal with a fact, Scott. It is way more than you apparently can handle.

  5. It is refreshing to see Fox at the bottom–where it should be! Thanks, Rachel!

  6. Rachel, just the best, explains everything so simply so EVERYONE can understand. She’s the best.

  7. Rachel is so on point. She is definately ” to the left,” but her team is sick about the facts. Its refreshing in a world where the reality show of news, Fox, seeks to keep its viewers uninformed and ignorant. I’m not even a Democrat, and I respect her work a great deal.
    BTW: KEVIN, your last comment was Hilarious! “half way there…” LOL

  8. Well, that didn’t last long. Mediaite is reporting that Megyn Kelly is back at #1 in the demo.

    By the way: Mediaite also has two stories about the interracial marriage between Fox News reporter Adam Housley and Tamera Mowry, who is half-black. Apparently, Tamera has had to deal with left-wing hatemongers calling her “a white man’s whore”.

    • But just because something is “popular,” say like “The Dukes of Hazzard” was in the ’80s or the Jitterbug was in the ’20s, doesn’t automatically connote cultural value. You should know that, Scott. Conservatives love to go on and on about our rotten popular culture.

      • Gee, if ratings aren’t all that important, then why is Mark doing back flips over Maddow winning the 25-54 demo race (for…ahem…all of one week)?

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