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A Tale Of Two MSNBCs

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Increasingly, it's seeming as if there are two cable news networks inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza: a thriving, opinion-oriented evening channel that's solidly in the #2 spot and a struggling straight-news dayside network that regularly places fifth in the demographic.

In November 2009, MSNBC's evening lineup topped CNN's in the Adults 25-54 demographic, the audience segment that advertisers buy, coming in a solid second place behind the dominant Fox News.

At 6PM, MSNBC's "The Ed Show" averaged 155,000 A25-54 viewers, an 8% advantage over CNN's "The Situation Room," which averaged 143,000 A25-54 viewers.

At 7PM, MSNBC's repeat of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" averaged 184,000 A25-54 viewers, an 11% advantage over CNN, which averaged 166,000 A25-54 viewers in the timeslot ("Lou Dobbs Tonight" aired through November 12, after which "CNN Tonight" filled the timeslot).

At 8PM, MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" averaged 298,000 A25-54 viewers, a 66% advantage over CNN's "Campbell Brown," which averaged 179,000 A25-54 viewers.

At 9PM, MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" averaged 251,000 A25-54 viewers, a 9% advantage over CNN's "Larry King Live," which averaged 231,000 A25-54 viewers.

At 10PM, MSNBC's repeat episode of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" averaged 224,000 A25-54 viewers, a 7% advantage over CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," which averaged 209,000 A25-54 viewers.

During the day, however — when MSNBC is airing its straight news programming — it's an entirely different story.

The network's two new dayside programs, "Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan" and "Dr. Nancy" have struggled in the ratings.

"Morning Meeting" averaged 75,000 A25-54 viewers in the 9AM hour, and just 65,000 A25-54 viewers in the 10AM hour, coming in fifth place behind Fox News, CNN, HLN, and CNBC (in that order). "Dr. Nancy" averaged just 55,000 A25-54 viewers at 12PM, again fifth place behind Fox News, CNN, HLN, and CNBC (in that order).

At 11 AM, "MSNBC Live" averaged 55,000 demo viewers; for comparison, Fox News' "Happening Now," which airs from 11AM-1PM, averaged 262,000 demo viewers, and CNN averaged 129,000 demo viewers at 11AM.

It's not much better in the afternoon, when MSNBC averaged 63,000 A25-54 viewers for "Andrea Mitchell Reports" at 1PM and 64,000 A25-54 viewers at 2PM. Compare that to Fox News' 255,000 A25-54 viewers for "The Live Desk," which airs from 1-3PM, and CNN's 127,000 A25-54 viewers at 1PM and 122,000 A25-54 viewers at 2PM.

At 3PM, MSNBC averaged 79,000 A25-54 viewers compared to 257,000 for Fox News' "Studio B with Shepard Smith" 130,000 for CNN's hour anchored by Rick Sanchez.

It's not until 4PM that MSNBC comes out of fifth place in the A25-54 demo, tying HLN for 3rd with 97,000 A25-54 viewers (compared to Fox News' 301,000 A25-54 viewers for "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and CNN's 140,000 A25-54 viewers).

At 5PM — a sort of transition hour between newsy dayside and opinion-oriented evening — MSNBC's "Hardball" averages 133,000 A25-54 viewers, while Fox News' "Glenn Beck" averages 678,000 A25-54 viewers and CNN's "Situation Room" averages 154,000 A25-55 viewers.

Of course, it must be noted, both MSNBC and CNN were down significantly in both total day and primetime compared to election-heavy November 2008. MSNBC was down 60% in the demographic in primetime and 56% in the demographic in total day ratings, and November's 127,000 A25-54 total day rating was its lowest of 2009. CNN, too, had its lowest A25-54 total day delivery of 2009 in November, averaging just 136,000 A25-54 viewers, down 63% from November 2008. CNN was down 71% in the demo in primetime, averaging 191,000 A25-54 viewers.