MEDIA
05/22/2017 07:03 pm ET

MSNBC Hits Ratings Milestone Amid Blitz Of Trump Bombshells

But the best prime-time finish in its 21 years comes as 10 p.m. host Lawrence O’Donnell may walk out the door.

NBC via Getty Images
Ratings for "The Rachel Maddow Show" helped push MSNBC to No. 1 last week, according to Nielsen.

During an especially frenzied news cycle, MSNBC scored its best week in its 21-year-history by beating out both CNN and Fox News in total prime-time viewers and among the demographic prized by advertisers.

The week of May 15 kicked off with the bombshell that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats, followed the next day with a report that he urged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. More revelations about Flynn followed, along with the naming of a special prosecutor for the Russian investigation. Trump’s reported boast to the Russians about firing “nut job” Comey capped off one of the more chaotic weeks in U.S. politics. 

MSNBC progressive hosts Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell averaged 2.44 million total viewers and 611,000 viewers ages 25 to 54, a coveted demographic, according to Nielsen data.

But the network’s win comes as a third of it’s prime-time lineup may soon head out the door.

Jemal Countess via Getty Images
"Last Word" host Lawrence O'Donnell confirmed last week that his MSNBC contract is almost up despite high ratings.

As HuffPost reported earlier this month, NBC News chief Andy Lack has continued shifting MSNBC away from its liberal brand by hiring more Republicans and former Fox News talent ― even as its ratings indicate there’s a strong market for left-leaning programming in the Trump era. Yashar Ali reported on assignment for the HuffPost that it appeared the network was not going to renew O’Donnell’s contract, despite his success in the hour following “The Rachel Maddow Show.” 

The 10 p.m. host confirmed Wednesday that his contract ends June 4.

CNN came in second in the key demographic with 589,000 viewers, while Fox News ranked third for the first time in 17 years, with 497,000 viewers ages 25 to 54. Fox News was a close second in total viewers with 2.405 million and CNN ranked third at 1.649 million.

Fox News, which has led the cable news ratings race for 15 years, came out of the gate strong after ratings king Bill O’Reilly left last month in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. But the current prime-time lineup of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “The Five” and “Hannity” has struggled in handling the big news of the day if it reflects poorly on the Trump White House. 

The network’s right-leaning hosts largely ignored the big Comey news in prime time last week, as 10 p.m. host Sean Hannity has continued promoting a bogus conspiracy theory about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Hannity apparently plans to give oxygen to the Rich conspiracy on Monday night, with veteran Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera joining in the conservative host’s ghoulish pursuit.

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