Left-Wing Media In Tailspin After Chris Cuomo and Rachel Maddow’s Primetime Absence
Left-leaning news outlets CNN and MSNBC are tanking in the ratings in the critical 9 p.m. hour since losing Chris Cuomo and Rachel Maddow.
Very different situations with MSNBC and CNN’s star anchors have left both networks with significant holes to fill during one of the most important hours of the day.
Rachel Maddow recently announced on-air that she has gone on temporary hiatus at MSNBC, while Chris Cuomo was fired after a series of scandals brought shame to CNN. While the reasons for their absences are nothing alike, the impact has been the same. Both of the liberal networks have found themselves in unstable situations without their former 9 p.m. ET mainstays.
“The 9 p.m. hour in all of television is usually a tentpole for the entire primetime lineup. That CNN and MSNBC are both now floundering in that time slot is really a drag on their entire primetime,” said well-known media analyst Jeffrey McCall.
The 9 p.m. ET hour is historically prime real estate for any network, as cable and broadcast stations both traditionally put some of their most popular programs in the middle of the critical 8-11 p.m. ET window. NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup of the 1990s featured “Seinfeld” at 9 p.m., while “Cheers” occupied the coveted window before that. ABC’s “Monday Night Football” kicked off at 9 p.m. for over three decades, and CNN’s “Larry King Live” aired at that time during the pre-Jeff Zucker glory days of CNN. The laundry list of prominent shows to occupy the 9 p.m. hour is endless, but it doesn’t include anything airing on CNN or MSNBC in the near future.
“That both CNN and MSNBC are now struggling in a key time slot indicates that both channels not only have weak benches of talent but that they also failed to plan ahead and have alternative hosts prepared to step up to the plate,” McCall said.
CNN has experimented with different options at 9 p.m. ET since it was forced to terminate Cuomo last year, but none have been able to find an audience. MSNBC’s 9 p.m. Maddow-sized crater begins on Monday, Feb. 14.
Maddow announced last week that she would be off MSNBC for several weeks, taking a hiatus to work on other projects at least until sometime in April. She hinted that other extended absences could be in her future, and it has been reported that she’s looking to scale back her daily program because of professional burnout.
“We’re just taking it one step at a time,” Maddow told viewers.
Maddow, like Cuomo, is being replaced by a rotating pool of hosts beginning with Ali Velshi. The move puts an unproved primetime host in the middle of “All in with Chris Hayes” and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” which were already struggling among the advertiser-coveted demographic.
“The hiatus of Maddow is really a problem for MSNBC because Hayes before 9 p.m. and O’Donnell after 9 p.m. just can’t generate sufficient viewership to prop up the evening’s audience,” McCall said.
As for CNN, the liberal network has used Michael Smerconish in Cuomo’s old spot, extended Anderson Cooper’s program, and spent two weeks airing poorly rated “Democracy in Peril,” specials hosted by Brianna Keilar and Jim Acosta, but none of the options have resonated with Americans.
Since Dec. 6, the first weekday after Cuomo was shown the door, CNN has averaged a dismal 631,000 viewers at 9 p.m. During that same time period, Fox News’ “Hannity” averaged 2.8 million, and Maddow pulled in 2.1 million for MSNBC.
“CNN’s ratings problems are so severe now that it could well take years and a major strategic redirection to recover,” McCall said.