MSNBC Makes Gains With Black Audience

The network grew its African-American viewership by 60 percent.

Spectators follow 2012 election results in MSNBC store. (Getty Images)
Spectators follow 2012 election results in MSNBC store. (Getty Images)

To Succeed, “We Had to Reflect the Country”

MSNBC “. . . enjoyed significant (around 20%) ratings increases across the board” in 2012, “but made astonishing gains with their already-large African American audience, growing that audience by 60.5% for the Mon-Sun 8pm-11pm period,” Tommy Christopher reported Monday for Mediaite.

“MSNBC President Phil Griffin told me, in a phone interview, that he is ‘thrilled’ with that result, and that it ‘says a lot about what we’ve been doing over the last few years.’

“In that same time period, CNN grew its black audience by 23.7% (from 131,000 in 2011 to 162,000 in 2012, 23.9% of their total audience), while Fox News’ declined by 23.7% (38,000 in 2011 to 29,000 in 2012, 1.4% of their total audience), but MSNBC had more black viewers than both of those nets combined (from 177,000 in 2011 to 284,000 in 2012, 31.4% of their total audience).

“What’s more impressive is that MSNBC attained 60% growth after being number one in that demographic last year, and the year before.

” ‘This has been steady growth for us for some time,’ Griffin noted. ‘I think we made a commitment, we decided, that in order for this channel to succeed, that we had to reflect the country. This meant that we had to be part of the country in ways that the other channels weren’t.’

“Part of that commitment, according to Griffin, is the ‘look’ of the channel. ‘We have a diverse on-air group of people,’ Griffin said, ‘because that matters, and people want to know that we reflect their world. And it’s not just a single show – [it’s] across the board. You look at the guests every hour and we make sure that we have women, African Americans, everything, and I think to spend a day watching MSNBC is to see America as we have seen it.’

“That diverse array of talent, including hosts like Tamron Hall, Touré, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Rev. Al Sharpton, and ubiquitous contributors like Joy Reid, Goldie Taylor, Karen Finney, Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, [former Republican National Committee] Chairman Michael Steele, Eugene Robinson, and Jonathan Capehart, is an organic result of the network’s editorial philosophy, rather than an end unto itself, says Griffin.

” ‘It wasn’t like we said “Oh, we have to have a diverse person on here and there,” ‘ he said. ‘We made a decision. We made a commitment in ideas, issues and everything – the audience followed, and that goes back to four or five years ago. As we grew, we recognized that it was the right thing to do. It’s giving a voice to people in these kinds of programs who don’t always get a voice. Our look is as diverse as any on mainstream TV. I’m incredibly proud of it. It’s not like we decided ‘We’re going to increase our African American viewership by 60%,’ but I’m thrilled that it happened, and it says a lot about what we’ve been doing over the last few years.’ . . . “

An MSNBC spokeswoman was unable to provide figures for Hispanic and Asian viewership.