MSNBC had a banner year in 2012, seeing a 20 percent increase in ratings overall. The boost was fueled, undoubtedly, by the 2012 presidential campaign, but there was another major factor: Black viewership.
The cable news channel announced that its already robust Black audience increased by 60.5 percent to 284,000 in 2012 from 177,000 in 2011, and now comprises 31.4 percent of their total audience.
Among Black viewers, MSNBC outshined its major competitors: CNN saw a 23.7 percent increase (to 162,000 in 2012 from 131,000 in 2011) while FOX News saw a 23.7 percent decrease (to 29,000 in 2012 from 38,000 in 2011).
“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,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin told Mediaite.com.
Black viewers were likely drawn by the channel’s progressive approach to current issues, but also by the “look” of the network. The array of diverse on-air talents includes hosts Tamron Hall, Touré, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Rev. Al Sharpton, and contributors such as Joy Reid, Goldie Taylor, Karen Finney, Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Eugene Robinson, and Jonathan Capehart.
“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 diversity was not calculated solely to increase numbers, Griffin added, but was a natural outgrowth of the channel’s core philosophies.
“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.”