MSNBC beats CNN during election night coverage

By Michael P. Hill Article may include affiliate links

With linear television viewing down to its lowest point during a midterm election since 2014, MSNBC managed to beat rival CNN in total viewers for the first time during any national election coverage — as well as edging out its own parent broadcast network.

About 3.2 million viewers watched MSNBC Nov. 8, 2022, according to Nielsen.

CNN came in it at 2.6 million.

Although MSNBC typically outperforms CNN day-to-day, CNN had, at least until now, been a reliable leader during big news events and election coverage.

These figures include estimates of linear viewers during the 8 to 11 p.m. timeslot.

So why did CNN drop so much? The answer to that question is about as clear as what’s going to happen with the outstanding races.

CNN did quietly promote Jake Tapper as lead election anchor, alongside Anderson Cooper, instead of stalwart Wolf Blitzer — and viewers definitely noticed, according to numerous posts on social media.

It’s clear if viewers tuned to CNN expecting to see Blitzer and then, not seeing him, moved on.

CNN is also in the middle of significant turmoil after the failed launch of its CNN+ streamer and new leadership under Chris Licht and new ownership under the merged Warner Bros. Discovery company, though it’s also not clear how those events may have influenced election night ratings, if at all.

CNN and MSNBC were closely matched in the adult 25-54 demographic, but CNN would eventually pull ahead of both MSNBC and NBC in that category as Nielsen released final figures.

Nielsen typically issues early estimates on ratings but then issues revisions later on as more data comes in.

CNN also managed to outpace MSNBC Nov. 9, 2022, the day after election night, in the demo, though not in total viewers.

The network’s new “CNN This Morning” broadcast also appears to have benefited from the viewers tuning in to watch continued coverage. It beat MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in the demo here as well and grew 164% overall but still attracted fewer viewers than “Joe.”

CNN also noted that its audience skewed younger than Fox or MSNBC during election night, at 62. Fox’s average viewer age was 69 while MSNBC’s was 72.

Meanwhile, neither network could touch Fox’s conservative commentary network with 7.2 million with 5.4 million in the demo, which is typically the case whether or not there’s any special coverage happening or not.

ABC News topped traditional broadcast networks with 3.3 million total viewers, followed by MSNBC at 3.1 million and NBC with just under 3.1 million. CBS had about 2.5 million while Fox Business had around 600,000 and CNBC brought in 103,000 viewers.

Outside of broadcast, media outlets all reported growth in digital and streaming, while total linear viewership was down. That’s not surprising at all — and it’s a trend that’s expected to continue as viewers shift viewing habits.

Streaming and digital platforms aren’t consistently tracked the way linear TV is, though media companies like to release numbers ranging from everything to unique “starts” of live streams to number of unique viewers. However, this data isn’t always verified by third parties, though there are some efforts that are making an effort to get more insight into streaming and digital viewership.

Fox’s broadcast network did not carry nationwide election coverage, instead opting to air new episodes of “The Resident” and “Monarch.” “Monarch” was able to remain steady while “The Resident” dropped slightly for its season averages.