This was posted on Saturday, March 11, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Donald Trump's presidency so far has helped lift the viewership of some TV programs that go squarely after him, notably MSNBC's 'The Rachel Maddow Show," CBS's "Late Night With Stephen Colbert" and NBC's "Saturday Night Live." (The New York Times thought up the same story line yesterday.)
Maddow's show at 9 p.m. doubled its February 2017 ratings from February 2016, from 1.14 million to 2.231 million, moving from 15th to seventh place among cable news programs. For years, the top 10 cable news shows are typically all from Fox News. In the key 25-54 demo, Maddow almost doubled her numbers from 269,000 to 520,000 year over year, moving from 10th place to sixth.
In an interview with The Wrap, she said she has been ignoring many of the Trump Tweet storms in favor of focusing on "what they do rather than what they say."
This week, her numbers have gone even higher as she continues to focus on Trump's Russian ties. On both Wednesday and Thursday nights, Maddow beat Fox News' Tucker Carlson head to head in overall viewers and in the 25-54 demo. And both nights, she had the highest 25-54 demo of any cable news show.
Fox News is doing just fine. "The O'Reilly Factor" remains the top dog with 4.1 million viewers in February 2017 vs. 3.1 million in the same month 2016. "Hannity" is up from 1.8 million to 2.8 million. Carlson averaged 3.3 million, up from "The Kelly File" at 2.4 million a year earlier. CNN, without the ratings boost from debates in 2016, saw a drop in prime-time numbers but still grew in full day ratings year over year.
In contrast, broadcast evening broadcasts are taking a beating. Broadcast morning shows are losing viewers, too.
In the meantime, there's been a shift in the late-night talk show wars. NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" has been the reliable ratings leader until Trump took over. He still maintains the 18-49 demo lead but CBS's "Late Night With Stephen Colbert" is now regularly beating Fallon in overall ratings.
Since last fall, Colbert has beefed up his political jokes with a laser on Trump. His ratings from 2015 to August, 2016 had slid to under 2 million so CBS added a news-focused showrunner.
Business Insider studied ratings from the first two months of 2016 vs. 2017. Fallon lost 600,000 viewers, falling from 3.5 million to 2.9 million. Colbert has grown from 2.5 million to 2.9 million. Colbert broke 3 million in viewership in February, beating Fallon five straight weeks. (There is slight panic in the Fallon camp, insiders report.)
"Real Time with Bill Maher," another heavily political show on HBO, has seen ratings grow 68 percent, from 1.1 million to a 1.8 million. And "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," which debuted in February 2016 has seen big ratings leaps as well.
NBC's "Saturday Night Live," in the meantime, is seeing its best ratings in years in part because of political coverage, including Alec Baldwin's Trump impression and Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer. The show is averaging about 11 million viewers after a week of DVR usage is factored in.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told the Los Angeles Times last month: “You can’t be angry all the time — it destroys your health. So ‘Saturday Night Live,’ in a sense, is a kind of Pepto-Bismol for the bile that’s building all week long.”