02/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MSNBC, "Network That Opened Its Heart To Change," Posts Poor Showing In Inauguration Ratings

Perhaps every MSNBC viewer was in the audience for Tuesday's inauguration.

That's probably the most favorable explanation for the cable network's dismal showing in the inauguration ratings, where it came in last among all networks and trailed rivals CNN and Fox News in every daypart.

For the critical hours of 11AM to 2PM, MSNBC averaged just 2.6 million total viewers, 69 percent lower than Fox News (4.4 million) and 165 percent lower than CNN (6.9 million), according to Nielsen Media Research.

For the total day (6AM-3AM), MSNBC averaged 1.7 million total viewers, compared to CNN's 4.0 million and Fox News' 2.5 million. Things weren't any better in the Adults 25-54 demographic, either, where MSNBC usually performs well. CNN won the demo with an average 1.6 million to Fox News' 750,000 and MSNBC's 610,000.

MSNBC can brag about growth over the 2001 inauguration, though. The network's ratings grew 142% compared to eight years ago (CNN grew 213% and Fox News grew 145% compared to 2001).

The network's poor showing is ironic given MSNBC's partisan shift and embrace of Obama's candidacy, notoriously encapsulated by Chris Matthews' pronouncement that a Barack Obama speech sent a thrill up his leg.

Matthews backed up those comments during Tuesday's coverage, declaring MSNBC the network of Obama supporters and adding another layer of irony to the low ratings.

"It sure as hell helps to be on MSNBC today," he said. "Let's talk straight here: This is the network that has opened its heart to change. To change and its possibilities. Let's be honest. These people watch this network out here."