Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow squared off for their first head-to-head battle after FOX News moved Hannity’s show to the 9 p.m. slot. Hannity, the conservative heavyweight won significantly higher ratings than his liberal counterpart.
The show was designed to counter the dramatic ratings surge by rival MSNBC, led by Maddow, the biggest ratings winner since the start of the Trump administration.
After Hannity brought in Steve Bannon, Bill O’Reilly, Paul Ryan, and Rush Limbaugh to boost his numbers, it appears to have worked. According to early Nielsen figures, Hannity pulled in an average of 3,498,000 viewers from Monday through Thursday, with 713,000 in the key adult 25-54 demographic.
Maddow averaged 2,649,000 viewers, with 599,000 adults in the 25-54 demographic.
FOX’s big numbers allow them to regain the 9 p.m. slot from MSNBC.
Despite surges in viewers for MSNBC’s show “The Rachel Maddow Show,” FOX News was the most watched cable news network for the 63rd straight quarter.
Gemma Puglisi, a professor at American University’s School of Communication, said that once a ratings pattern is established, there is certainly bragging rights.
She said, “I think this kind of battle is fueling people to watch. Everybody likes winners.”
In reference to Hannity’s success, Joseph Bonner, a senior analyst for communications and technology at Argus Research said, “I wouldn’t make a lot out of it. He emphasized that just one week isn’t enough to draw conclusions and noted that Hannity’s high-profile guests likely helped goose his ratings. Certainly bragging rights, but I don’t think MSNBC is going to be canceling Maddow or anything.”
Scott Robson, an analyst at research firm Kagan, added that Hannity was most likely aided this week by strong conservative interest in the Republican Senate special election runoff in Alabama. “There’s still many more shows to go and I’m sure that as the news shifts and guests change, we could see the dynamics go back and forth,” he said.
Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research said, “CNN is significantly underperforming, Fox News is performing roughly in line, and MSNBC is growing dramatically.”
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