MSNBC’s Ratings Collapse In Wake Of Olbermann Departure

Via Noel Sheppard I found this interesting chart of the most recent overnight ratings for the four cable news networks:

Compare that to the numbers from January 19th, the last week Keith Olbermann was on the air:

Say whatever you will about MSNBC’s decision to let Olbermann go, but. at least initially, it doesn’t seem to have been a good idea from a business point of view.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Marvin says:

    Looks like a 28% drop at the 8PM slot… ouch!

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I also doubt that Morning Joe was helped by the endless days of self-congratulatory, media navel gazing. Made me long for Mika telling us of her dream of a day when she could strike an obese child carrying a sixty-ounce slushy.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Not surprising. Olberman attracted a partisan audience just like the partisans at Fox. If Fox dropped O’Reilly and substituted a nonentity guess what would happen. Letting Olberman go was up their with the Leno move to 10.00pm

  4. PJ says:

    Here’s Feb 7th, 8th, and 9th.

    Look at the numbers.

    I’m not saying that Olbermann leaving hasn’t affected MSNBC’s ratings. What I’m saying that one probably should pick more than just two dates before drawing any conclusions…

  5. john personna says:

    I wondered about that PJ. We need a longer average, of average news days.

    Many people, including I, tend to turn on the TV only if anything interesting is happening.

    (And I wouldn’t tune MSNBC for Egyptian news.)

  6. john personna says:

    Overall though I just chuckle. I my first thought was “hire Juan Williams!” lolz.

  7. PJ says:

    O’Donnell has done 14 weekday shows so far. The average of those are 1.074 million. The median 1049.5. The SOTU was Tuesday 25th and the first non Olbermann show was on the 24th, so obviously these two days have a higher audience. Remove those two and the average is 1.014 and the median 1.013.

    The average of Olbermann’s last 14 weekday shows; 1.149, the median 1.152. (And just to point out, the Tucson shooting may have made more people watch, in these 14 dates, more people watched the shows after (Avg: 1.188; Med 1.256) the shooting than the ones before (Avg: 1.079; Med 1.050),but if that was because of the shootings or something else…).

    So, counting all O’Donnell’s shows the drop in median would have been 12%, not counting the first two 9%.

    And in hindsight, I should have checked where you had found this… Newsbusters… That would have saved some time…

  8. J. Stephen says:

    You’re comparing a Thursday with a Wednesday. Look at the numbers from this past Wednesday and compare that with 1/19 and the dropoff is much, much less.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @PD: I will not tolerate gratuitous attacks on Mika who remains one of this country’s leading MILFs. She’s hot, she’s smart, she’s a little loopy, and she can totally pull off the boots and sweater dress thing.

    On the broader topic: I was already heading away from MSNBC and despairing of an alternative. Fox is for morons, and CNN has the same effect on me as a fist full of Ambien and a whiskey chaser.

    But during the Egypt thing CNN did a pretty good job, so I trended that direction. Plus they finally dragged the corpse of Larry King out into the parking lot. Unfortunately they kept Wolf who is fingernails on the chalkboard for me.

  10. André Kenji says:

    Cable news is not limited to ratings. CNBC is fair more profitable to NBCUniversal, even if they have lower ratings. The problem is that Olbermann was a drag on the reputation of the NBC News division. Maddow and O´Donnell are not.

  11. Blue Gal says:

    Yeah I think those numbers are a bit skewed. Viewership was up (I say this coldly, I know) with the Arizona shootings, and they’re down big time now, even among blogs. This will all go away as the primary season heats up and the schedule finds its audience. Keith was popular, but Maddow can certainly hold her own and become the centerpiece of MSNBC’s typically strong election coverage.

    I would not be freaking out at this point. It’s February.

  12. Nancy Rutledge says:

    I miss Keith Olbermann a great deal. He knew how to keep you updated on the news. MSNBC was crazy to let him go. He was very talented and knew how to do a story. He also did a lot of good for the less fortunate–raising money for health care fares in the States where Democrats voted against the healthcare bill. These were some of the poorest states. Some people had to be rushed to the hospital after being checked. He kept us informed about Jan Brewer, (R) Governor, Arizona, who will not allow transplants for people on Medicaid. There are 100 people affected. Before Keith was let go, two had died. One was on the table to receive a liver of a relative that had died, and Jan Brewer stopped the surgery. He was one of the two that died. Keith had some of the people on his show that were being denied transplants. It would cost $1.4 million to cover the transplants. Brewer’s budget is $600 billion. She spent the money on an algae study. An independent person looked over her budget and found 26 ways to fund the transplans.

  13. Pesevere Persevere says:

    Letting Keith go to show him up and tame the beast will cost plenty and already has the network is now in shambles. Even the densest know to keep the number one draw until a suitable replacement is found. No, ComCast did it their way and now they pay. I read one million solid base another one mil drifters and they still let him get away ah the smarts of this new crew is already aglow, as on fire, the house is burning down just in case no one has noticed since….how do I find current News and find Keith?