Cable Show 2009: MSNBC Executives Courting Younger Viewers


Complete Cable Show 2009 coverage from Multichannel News

Television news may be a graying genre. But MSNBC is staking out a younger viewer.

"It's the millenials," said the 63-year-old Chris Matthews."They're not watching Larry King. They're watching Rachel [Maddow]."

Mathews made an appearance at Cable Show '09 here Thursday with Maddow and MSNBC president Phil Griffin.

"I think we take a particular focus on younger viewers," said Maddow. "And I think we are succeeding there."
MSNBC hit a milestone in the just-concluded first quarter ratings period, surpassing CNN in primetime and the morning in news' target sales demographic of 25-to-54-year-olds. But perhaps equally important to Griffin, is the fact that MSNBC was also the top-rated news network among persons 18 to 34, the so-called millenials.

And the millenials are the future.

"We're going to win the battle with younger viewers," said Griffin, adding that MSNBC does sell against the 18-to-34 demo.. "That's the battle we've staked out."

MSNBC's first-quarter ratings success, its best quarter in its 12-plus history, vindicates its strategy of programming opinionated, obviously partisan hosts rather than simply delivering news sans point of view, which is the territory CNN has staked out.

"This is a tremendous moment for MSNBC," said Griffin. "[CNN] has the best brand in television news. But we've got quality programming."

Matthews was quick to note that while many of MSNBC's hosts approach their programs from a certain side of the ideological divide ("We call it like we see it," he said), they are always "fact-based."

"There are a lot of programs on the air that are not fact-based. And I have a real problem with them," said Matthews. "We all know who they are. There's a new one on the air right now."

MSNBC also announced that it will begin telecasting in 1080i HD on June 29. The launch, said Griffin, was less about allowing viewers to see its cadre of personalities including new addition Ed Schultz, in HD, and more about getting MSNBC into the HD channel lineup with its cable news competitors.

"To me, it's about the neighborhood," he said. "[HD] is just about to hit critical mass and we've got to be there."
The Ed Show launches April 6 at 6 p.m. displacing David Schuster's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Shuster co-anchor a two-hour news program with Tamron Hall from 3-5 p.m. MSNBC has also shelved plans to develop at 10 p.m. program after Maddow's show and instead will continue to rerun Olbermann's Countdown, which has gained traction at 10 p.m. "There are night where a rerun of [Countdown] beats Anderson Cooper 360," said Griffin.

Matthews joked that the rerun of his show at 7 p.m. may be confusing to some of his viewers. "It's a topic of ongoing discussion," he said. "There are people who are confused and think they're watching [a new show]," he said. "But there are people who know they've seen it before. And those are the type of discerning viewers I'm looking for."