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Why are cable news ratings diving?

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 10:42 a.m. MDT

MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow, left, Lawrence O'Donnell, center, and Chris Matthews take part in a panel discussion at the NBC Universal summer press tour, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Beverly Hills, Calif.  (Chris Pizzello, Associated Press) MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow, left, Lawrence O'Donnell, center, and Chris Matthews take part in a panel discussion at the NBC Universal summer press tour, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Fox News remained at the top of the ratings battle in 2013, but other networks are in a downward spiral, according to USA Today. “The network, owned by Time Warner, pointed out that its total day viewers, 413,000, surpassed MSNBC. CNN's total day ratings remained flat in 2013, compared with a year earlier,” wrote USA Today's Roger Yu.

Whether it is because of a network’s ideological motivation or the inability to attract its targeted audience due to other factors, networks such as MSNBC are losing the ratings battle and losing badly. As a new National Review Online piece about Rachel Maddow's influence at MSNBC points out, while Fox News dropped five percentage points, MSNBC was down by 29 percent. These numbers point to a flawed mission, according to Eliana Johnson of the National Review Online. “MSNBC’s wonks, nonetheless, are seeing weak ratings because the cable-television audience does not mirror the American, or Democratic, electorate.”

Martin Bashir’s remarks about Sarah Palin last November and the latest remarks by Melissa Harris-Perry about Mitt Romney’s family — both on MSNBC — illustrate the divide that seems to exist between the echo chambers of cable news and the public at large.

It is not all sunshine for Fox News, either. According to TVNEWSER, Fox News stumbled 19 percent in the 25-54 demographic, pointing to its ongoing struggle to attract younger viewers. “In primetime, the network is posting its lowest total viewer delivery since 2007 and lowest demo delivery since 2001.”

The other networks, however, are surely having many more sleepless nights than Fox News, and media pundants have a few ideas why.

Erik Wemple wrote in The Washington Post that in the growing business model of cable news, politics is more important than getting it right. “The whole flare-up, moreover, signals just how politics does indeed trump all else on the cable airwaves, or at least on MSNBC.”

However, there are some that are justifying the losses across the board. In a statement released on CNN Press Room, they did just that. “While all of CNN's individual primetime programs showed ratings increases in 2013, all cable news network's 8-11 p.m. time period ratings are down compared to 2012 — largely due to each network's presidential election programming, which had high viewership from debates and election night.”

Either way, networks such as MSNBC may have some soul seraching to do.

Erik Raymond is a California native with experience in national and international politics. He recently relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com.

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