By Mike Kinosian
West Coast Bureau Chief/Managing Editor
NEW YORK — These days, the election year of 2012, which highlighted the reelection of President Barack Obama, probably seems like eons ago to management of progressive-leaning MSNBC. Just one year ago, MSNBC was ahead of CNN and it often times proved to be a worthy competitor to conservative Fox News Channel, cable’s perpetual leader. Primetime erosion at MSNBC however is pegged as high as -16%. It would seem that an outlet whose positioning statements have included “The Place For Politics” and “Lean Forward” would be thriving with a Democrat in the White House for a second term (although sometimes these things work in reverse), but the numbers don’t seem to be there – at least not when indexed against 2012. Naturally, MSNBC’s detractors are quick to cite recent ratings woes, although the news cycle in recent months has included a wide mix of stories ranging from the aftermath of April’s Boston bombings, the George Zimmerman trial, and rather extensive coverage of a “royal birth” in London – George Alexander Louis to duke of Cambridge William Louis and his wife, Catherine. “Why would folks tune in if they can simply watch a White House press conference and readily predict what MSNBC’s talking heads are going to say for the rest of the day,?” ponders Justin Danhof, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project. It needs noting that the 1982-founded National Center for Public Policy Research describes itself as an “independent conservative think-tank”; 94% of its support comes from individuals. According to the Center, “MSNBC’s leadership continues to steer the company into the basement by forcing liberal opinion programming into nearly every second of its airtime.” The MSNBC business model, Danhof’s organization claims, is “doomed to fail” and Danhof adds, “It is not hard to see why producing only full-tilt liberal opinion shows is a self-defeating strategy. According to Gallup, only 21% of Americans identify as liberal, 35% identify as moderate, and the largest percentage of Americans, 40%, consider themselves to be conservative. MSNBC is only catering to a fringe audience. Nearly all their hosts repeat each other’s talking points, [to] stay on message. After a while, it is just noise.” Obviously, this is what has been mentioned incalculable times on both sides of talk radio. Late last year, Pew Research analyzed the major cable TV news channels and noted that by an 85%/15% split, MSNBC was dominated by opinion coverage over news reporting; Fox News Channel 55% opinion/45% news reporting; and CNN 46% opinion/54% news reporting. Stations in PPM markets can see their numbers wobble from month to month, so isolating a one-day television snapshot is even trickier. Nonetheless, here is how Nielsen cable numbers broke out for a randomly-selected day this month. For all the internet gloom and doom regarding MSNBC’s ratings, at least on this objectively-picked day, the cable channel finished second (behind FNC) in virtually every time period. In some cases, though, the separation between #1 FNC and #2 MSNBC, no longer with Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz on their weekday lineup, is cavernous. Radio partisans should take note of the 9:00 pm stats posted by Sean Hannity and former Air America talent Rachel Maddow; “Loveline” host Dr. Drew (Pinsky) is also part of that hour’s battle. There are others, of course, with radio roots of some degree, including Bill O’Reilly (“The O’Reilly Factor”), Joe Scarborough (“Morning Joe”), and Brian Kilmeade (“Fox & Friends”).
Although it admittedly mixes ratings methodologies, as well as cume versus total persons, for a bit of perspective, here are July 2013 PPM-based cume numbers for several news and talk stations. Cume numbers for New York City news outlets WINS and WCBS-AM are 2,437,500 and 2,028,800, respectively; talk WABC’s is 817,900. In Los Angeles, all-news KNX has a cume of 1,044,500, while talk KFI is 861,200. Chicago all-news operation WBBM-AM has a cume of 1,575,900 and talk WGN is 931,100.
Mike Kinosian is managing editor and West Coast bureau chief for TALKERS magazine. He can be telephoned at 818-985-0244 or emailed at Kinosian@Talkers.com