MSNBC May Be Missing Olbermann as Ratings Slump

The Peacock might be missing Keith Olbermann following its September ratings slump

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He may have been "a jerk" who was "difficult and brutal" to work with but at least he brought in the ratings. The departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC has coincided with the left-leaning network losing significant ground to CNN in the cable news wars, reports The New York Times. If ratings trends from September hold, MSNBC may fall to third place, a rank long-held by CNN, which is steadily gaining viewers:

Both CNN and MSNBC had one especially strong night because of the Republican presidential debates. With those excluded, however, CNN beat MSNBC, 219,000 to 207,000. A year ago, when Mr. Olbermann still occupied the 8 p.m. hour, MSNBC edged CNN by 83,000 viewers, with 256,000 viewers for MSNBC to 173,000 for CNN.

The change in the September ratings was most noticeable at 8 p.m., where CNN has moved its best-known host, Anderson Cooper. The network’s performance during that hour has improved by 38 percent over last year, growing to 215,000 viewers from 156,000.

In a ratings trend that should surprise no one, the rather gloomy diatribes of Olbermann's replacement Lawrence O'Donnell don't seem to winning viewers. O'Donnell lost 100,000 viewers in September compared with Olbermann's September numbers of last year—a problem that's also affecting MSNBC's star Rachel Maddow. "Her audience dropped 15 percent this year, to 245,000 from 289,000," writes The Times' Bill Carter. "She still beats Piers Morgan on CNN in the 9 p.m. hour, but his show has improved 18 percent over Larry King’s ratings last year, with 193,000 viewers to Mr. King’s 164,000." While the coverage of MSNBC's dwindling numbers is probably gratifying to Olbermann, it's not like he's swimming in exposure and influence these days. As Carter notes, "Mr. Olbermann is now on the air head-to-head against Mr. O’Donnell. The channel he appears on, Current TV, is not in the league of either CNN or MSNBC in terms of national profile, and his audience totals do not approach any of the other 8 p.m. competitors." Meanwhile, Fox News is still crushing both networks with 526,000 viewers during prime time.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.