In the world of cable news, one reality has been more dependable than any other: Fox News is king, everyone else if left fighting for second place. It’s been that way for so long, nobody ever envisioned a time that it would come to an end. Fox News has been dominating the cable news ratings for almost two decades, and it hasn’t even been close.
Of course, some say all good things must come to an end. In the case of Fox News, that time appears to have finally arrived. Just days after the passing of Jeff Ailes, the man who turned Fox News into a media empire, the cable news ratings war took a dramatic shift. For now, there’s a new king of cable news, one nobody expected.
From the Hill:
MSNBC finished first in the key 25-54 demographic and in total viewers against its cable news rivals last week for the first time in its 21-year existence, according to Nielsen Research.
Overall, MSNBC finished second in all of basic cable, only falling to TNT, which aired several NBA playoff games.
Fox News finished third in primetime for the first time in nearly 17 years.
The news is a stunning reversal of the usual fortunes. Not only because Fox News finished at the bottom, but because for years that was traditionally the domain of MSNBC.
MSNBC’s ratings woes have been well documented. In fact, there was a time when the network was struggling so much, many wondered if it would continue to be on the air much longer. Now, they’ve accomplished something never before done in the network’s history.
Adding to the news, MSNBC’s drive to the top was realized in large part because of one of its most visible personalities:
In terms of individual programs, “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9 p.m. continued its ratings roll, finishing as the most-watched nonsports program for the week in all of basic cable.
Of course, MSNBC can’t take full credit for their rise to the top. Indeed, Fox News shares some of the blame for its own demise. For over a year now, the once undisputed king of cable news has been embroiled in turmoil. Last year, prime-time personality Gretchen Carlson left the company, accusing top executive Roger Ailes of sexual harassment on her way out the door. Those accusations forced the resignation of Ailes, the man largely responsible for catapulting Fox to the top.
Unfortunately for Fox, the drama didn’t stop there. This year has seen the departure of even more high profile personalities. First, popular anchor Megyn Kelly left the company for NBC. However, the biggest blow was the loss of Bill O’Reilly, fired over accusations he too was involved in sexual harassment. That may have proved to be more than Fox could overcome, as O’Reilly’s show was the ratings king of cable news for over a decade.
In the end, MSNBC turned out to be the beneficiary of the Fox News decline. Whether or not the network can stay at the top remains to be seen. For now, they’re sure to be celebrating their stunning accomplishment.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]