Hating Trump has meant big things for the bottom lines of the New York Times and the Washington Post. And their cable peers, CNN and MSNBC also appeared to be riding a wave. And then, like a drunken surfer, the wave left them while they plummeted back to earth trailing ads, memes and viewers.
In prime time, Fox News destroyed its competition, with an average total audience of 2.381 million viewers, compared to MSNBC’s 1.384 million and CNN’s 835,000. Among viewers 25-54, the group most coveted by advertisers, FNC shook off a challenge in recent months from MSNBC to claim a clear victory: 461,000 viewers, well ahead of MSNBC (329,000) and CNN (265,000).
And there’s a solid win in the demo too. Which is far trickier for conservatives.
In the demo, Hannity was first, followed by Maddow, Laura Ingraham, Carlson and MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
Those numbers are the product of declines across the board. Or almost across the board.
In May, prime-time viewership for the cable news networks was down overall except for Fox News, which grew 6% from the same period last year. CNN had the biggest declines, down a full 25%. Among viewers 25-54, Fox News was up slightly (+2%) while MSNBC fell significantly (-21%) and CNN dropped by more than a third (-34%).
So what happened?
Why is #resistance selling much better in print and web longreads than cable news? Print media has put on the appearance of breaking Trump scandals. It invested in reporters while CNN and MSNBC didn’t. The talent deck is thin. Rachel Maddow is a crank and was always going to have a ceiling. CNN isn’t blowing away anyone either with Chris Cuomo. And print media adapted better to the web with buzzy headlines and viral stories, while cable news is still largely doing what it did before. It’s a stodgy medium and the limits are more likely to be pushed by Tucker Carlson on FOX News than by Maddow.