At MSNBC, Ratings Challenge Looms For Ronan Farrow

MSNBC, Ratings Challenge Looms Ronan Farrow

Soon-to-be MSNBC anchor Ronan Farrow has had no trouble courting attention off the air. But how will he fare when he gets behind the desk starting February 24?

The Rhodes Scholar, one-time Obama foreign policy official and child of celebrities has cut quite a swath through media-obsessed pop culture since the NBCUniversal-owned cable outlet announced in October it was developing a program with him at the center. Indeed, even without a program on the air, Farrow is slated to appear this evening on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

When he returns and gets down to the business of broadcasting regularly, however, Farrow may find he’s in for a challenge. MSNBC has been finishing third in his 1 p.m. time slot to Fox News Channel and CNN for months.

According to Nielsen, the current resident of that time slot, “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” has seen its ratings slump, in both total viewers and audience in the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming, people between 25 and 54. A spokeswoman for MSNBC did not respond to an email query seeking comment on ratings competition and plans for Farrow’’s program.

Farrow would appear to be one of MSNBC’s brightest hopes. His pedigree and past experience make him instantly interesting. His background has drawn the interest of The New York Times Magazine, and he recently made an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, told the Times Magazine that he came across Farrow on Twitter, and was quickly drawn to him. Griffin said he “loved the way [Farrow] talked about things.” After meeting for a talk, said Griffin, “Within 20 minutes I wanted to hire him” adding, “He’s got it.

The question is whether Farrow’s intelligence and charisma can help turn the time-slot tide.

For the bulk of January of last year, for example, “Andrea Mitchell Reports” duked it out with CNN while losing to Fox News. According to Nielsen, the show captured an average of 511,000 viewers overall and an average of 150,000 in the 25-54 demo. In the same month, Fox News Channel attracted an average of 1.16 million overall and 231,000 in the demo, while CNN notched an average of 527,000 overall and 124,000 in the demo.

Since that time, however, MSNBC’s 1 p.m. ratings have tumbled. For the bulk of December, “Andrea Mitchell Reports” won an average of 289,000 viewers and 86,000 in the demo. Fox News Channel lured an average of 1.11 million overall and 206,000 in the demo, while CNN secured an average of 361,000 overall and 99,000 among viewers between 25 and 54.

In January to date, Fox News Channel has held sway, luring an average of nearly 1.2 million overall viewers to its “America’s News Headquarters,” anchored by Alisyn Camerota and Bill Hemmer, along with an average of 232,000 in the 25-to-54 demo. CNN has attracted an average of 399,000 to its “CNN Newsroom” along with an average of 110,000 in the 25-to-54 demo. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” has attracted an average of 315,000 overall viewers and an average of 98,000 in the 25-to-54 demo.

Mitchell’s show is being shifted to noon, where it will compete with a new CNN berth for Ashleigh Banfield and Fox News’ “Happening Now,” hosted by Jenna Lee and Jon Scott.

When Farrow takes the anchor chair, he will find himself vying with Fox News’ Camerota and Hemmer as well as CNN veteran Wolf Blitzer, who is hosting “Wolf” in the 1 p.m. hour. As always, the ratings will likely tell the tale.

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  1. Bobbo says:

    Seriously? Another MSNBC mouth who gets about 37,000 people in the key age group to watch his crap? What a complete joke of a network! Who is backing these clowns and clearly losing MILLIONS?

  2. Patricia Hoffman says:

    Mr. Farrow asked viewers to respond whether Mr. Putin or President Obama had shown more leadership in the Ukraine uprising. I understand his mission is to attract more younger viewers at the midday time slot, which apparantly involves tweats. Hopefully, he will rethink the questions he poses. The comparison between Putin and Obama is sophomoric at best and certainly embarrassing for informed viewers. Russia to Ukraine is like the U.S. to Canada or Mexico. Would Mr. Putin show any initial leadership if there were uprisings in North American countries? Probably not. Russia to Ukraine is apples to apples. The United States to Ukraine is important but probably more like apples to oranges or, more likely, apples to green beans. I hope Mr. Farrow will thoughtfully consider his invitations for input in the future.

  3. Madison says:

    I won’t be watching. I find the whole rehashing of the 1992 Woody Allen / Mia Farrow scandal by Mia Farrow in a attempt to launch Ronan’s media career totally sordid and distasteful. We all know the results of the allegations will be inconclusive as they were twenty years ago.

  4. A.J. Matthews says:

    Saw him on Bill Maher. I was not impressed. No substance at all. Not even any style. If not for his connected parents he would be just another unemployed 20 something. I am an educated progressive and lately am very disappointed in MSNBC. My disappointed started with Al Sharpton and continues with Farrow. What are they thinking?

  5. Suzie Siegel says:

    I just wrote this down on my calendar so that I can be sure to DVR the show. I’m thankful to have someone who has been so involved in human-rights work — although I know he’ll have to ensure the show has broad-based appeal.

  6. Shazz says:

    Rhodes scholar and all, so why did he interview Miley Cyrus for “W?” Not cool.

  7. Pearl Stein says:

    Can’t even figure out who is father is? Mom doesn’t know? Got to be kidding me. For real, this is very basic stuff here. How is he to handle the complexities of politics? All he has done so far is blame Woody for his sad. little life.

  8. Truth says:

    I also saw him on Real Time with Bill Maher and was very disappointed. After reading all of these articles about him (with titles such as “child prodigy” and “genius” thrown about), I found Ronan completely underwhelming. He couldn’t muster one single intelligent or original response on Maher’s show. He cited one statistic about “stand your ground” and mentioned a few irrelevant opinions in a high minded manner – but it’s all style and no substance. And it’s not even that much style to be honest.

    For someone who graduated college & law school early and then became a Rhodes scholar, he sounded like an average college student from a slightly above average college. Unimpressed – you could find hundreds better on college campuses across the U.S. Of course, you’d have to hire somebody without connections (which Ronan has plenty).

    NBC has stop hiring the children of famous, rich people – Jenna Bush, Chelsea Clinton, Meghan McCain and now Ronan Farrow. Stop NBC – you’re just making yourself look bad, very bad.

  9. Chris says:

    His show will be awful. I saw him on Maher, he’s like a living Martin Short skit.

  10. Linnie Dunn says:

    Can’t wait for Ronan’s show. Can intelligent tv work? Let’s hope.

  11. Speaking as a wealthy liberal who worked his way up from nothing…

    I am not on food stamps, Hank.

    I am not living in an assisted living facility, Hank.

    I am not in a hospital, Hank .

    I *am* a big spender, Hank.

    yet, I do not watch Ronan Farrow.

    Contrary to what Hank implies, a decision to watch Farrow has nothing to do with your income level is or politics or socio-economic standing. Nice try.

    It has to do with maturity and substance. Both do not go hand in hand, yet Farrow lacks both.

  12. Hank Wershaw says:

    Let’s get real…Anyone watching TV on a weekday at I PM is either on food stamps, assisted living or in a hospital,,no big spenders,,so what advertisers pay has got to be next to nothing.


    Jan 31. Time slot? What time slot? This is 2014. Watch TV News on an iPad or Mac anytime you have an interest. The son of Mia and Frank Sinatra interests me. What if “He’s Got It” ? JON STEWART – BILL MAHR – RACHAEL MADOW – KIETH OBERMAN – CHRIS MATTHEWS – ED SHULTZ – ALEX WITT – RONAN FARROW – lots to keep going on my iPad

    • Suzanne says:

      Have you seen this guy? He can barely keep up with the chorus on Morning Joe. He hasn’t got it. He was hired because the person who was assumed to be his dad, whom he lashes out at continually, is a great wit. Sinatra and Mia, however, were not. He’ll be gone in 6 months.

  14. Barr Suul says:

    another silver spooned,snarky,effeminate host who says bitchy things. Toilet meet ratings.

  15. charcramer says:

    How long before he has to “apologize” for something? A week? A month?

  16. Fred Mertz says:

    As long as he lays off the Woody Allen controversy, he should do fine.

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