The spring was cruel to MSNBC. Despite a glut of national news, the liberal network has seen plummeting ratings that have declined by nearly 20 percent over last year, the New York Times reports:
For the second quarter so far, MSNBC has averaged 704,000 viewers in prime time, down 18 percent from last year. Among viewers that news advertisers pay to reach, those 25 to 54, MSNBC has averaged 214,000 for the quarter, down 11 percent. […]
Mr. Griffin pointed out that CNN has surged ahead of MSNBC (and occasionally even Fox News) when enormous news was breaking, like the tsunami in Japan in 2011 — but fell back once the news cooled. And on three nights last week, MSNBC edged back ahead of CNN in the prime-time hours, though CNN maintained a lead over the full day.
But there is speculation that something different may be happening this time, that a combination of a more aggressive approach from CNN, dimming interest in political news in general, and a sense that MSNBC has less to offer in hard news coverage, may be eroding the advantage that the channel has enjoyed.
MSNBC, known for its almost entirely opinion-based, at times exclusively pro-Obama coverage, does not field an in-house team of reporters unlike its competitors, the Times notes. That leaves the network at a distinct disadvantage for covering recent major news events like the Internal Revenue Service targeting of Tea Party groups or the Department of Justice's investigation of journalists, including Fox News reporter James Rosen.
But MSNBC is not about breaking news.
"We’re not the place for that," Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, told the Times. "Our brand is not that."