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Rachel Maddow’s decision to only work Mondays continues to cause problems for MSNBC, as Alex Wagner failed to fill the huge hole the network’s biggest star created at 9 p.m.
Maddow, who earns around $30 million a year, shocked MSNBC viewers earlier this year when she announced she would only be hosting “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Mondays to pursue other projects despite the huge salary.
Maddow previously competed for the title of ‘most-watched cable news anchor’ for much of the Trump administration when she attracted a massive liberal following, in part by pushing various debunked theories since linking the former president. to Russia.
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“The Rachel Maddow Show” thrived on the left’s hatred of Trump, averaging 2.5 million viewers in 2017, 2.9 million in 2018, 2.8 million in 2019 and 3.2 million in 2020. However, media insiders speculated during the first year of Biden’s presidency in 2021 that Maddow was not long for the job, and in April 2022 Maddow returned from a long hiatus and was announced that she would cancel her presence on the air.
Maddow now hosts “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Mondays only, leaving MSNBC without its cash cow for the rest of the week. The network eventually selected “Alex Wagner Tonight” from last month to fill the coveted Tuesday-Friday timeslot, but the program was unable to replicate Maddow’s success, particularly with younger viewers.
Wagner’s show premiered on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and has since averaged 1.6 million viewers, compared to 2.7 million for “Hannity,” his 9 p.m. ET competition on Fox News Channel. While “Hannity” tops Wagner by 63% among total viewers, the audience gap is even wider among advertisers’ most coveted demographics.
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“Alex Wagner Tonight” averaged just 154,000 viewers among adults ages 25-54, while “Hannity” pulled in 336,000 to beat the new MSNBC host by 118%.
Wagner’s nightly ratings in the critical category are less than half of the 374,000 Maddow averaged last year. Audiences on MSNBC’s new primetime show follow a variety of cable offerings, including “Friends” repeats on Nick-at-Nite, Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Champ,” WNBA Playoffs on ESPN and HGTV’s “My Lottery Dream Home.”
Last week, “Alex Wagner Tonight” dropped to an average of 129,000 demo viewers and delivered its worst night ever on Friday when less than 100,000 viewers in the category tuned in.
Wagner has now lost viewers to the group most coveted by advertisers every week since his program launched. But she not only struggles to maintain Maddow’s once large audience, Wagner also struggles to maintain relevance while lacking memorable moments and viral clips.
Mediaite, a website dedicated to posting newsworthy and interesting news clips, didn’t bother to cover everything Wagner herself said from her August 16 teleprompter malfunction to Monday afternoon. NewsBusters, a media watchdog run by the conservative Media Research Center, also didn’t find “Alex Wagner Tonight” particularly interesting.
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“Instead of a prime-time splash, Alex Wagner made a microscopic little ripple because one could easily forget she’s the host of MSNBC programming. Being Maddow’s glorified stand-in didn’t garner the dividends that MSNBC might have hoped for. It hasn’t scored all the headlines and thus becomes a programming void,” Nicholas Fondacaro, associate editor of NewsBusters, told Fox News Digital.
“Before getting the anchor job, Wagner was known for making headlines with outrageous statements slandering the right, including in her past life with MSNBC during the day. But these days, she’s mostly on par with the same old liberal pontificate,” he continued. “His stated goal for his show was to ‘dismantle’ and ‘undermine’ right-wing lies, but can anyone honestly say that his show is different from the rest of MSNBC’s programming?”
Although Maddow’s decision to work only one-fifth of the time has put MSNBC in a tough spot, it could hurt its own brand. It remains to be seen whether Maddow can maintain her own long-term success while only hosting Monday nights — she continues to appear for MSNBC’s special political coverage — as cable viewers historically develop habits and are accustomed to seeing a familiar face every weeknight. In 2022, Maddow lost 27% of its total viewership and 40% among key demo compared to its 2021 totals, and those declines include the first few weeks of the year when it was still working a full week.
All benchmark data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research.
Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News contributed to this report.
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