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MSNBC continues its dominance of CNN during prime time as the 2nd place cable news outlet, while CNN remains ahead during dayside hours (with Fox News dominating in 1st place in both categories).


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But a strange thing happened in the first quarter of 2010 – the 8pmET landmark show Countdown fared better without regular host Keith Olbermann than with him.

Olbermann was out all but one day during March before returning Monday due to the illness and death of his father. During that month, with Lawrence O’Donnell serving as the fill-in anchor, Countdown averaged 262,000 in the demo and 1,052,000 in total viewers. In January, the program averaged 1,000 more in the demo but 49,000 less in total viewers. In February, the program had 255,00 in the demo and 963,000 in total viewers. The year-to-year difference was also least in March than January or February. Overall though, the show is down 42% in the demo and 26% in total viewers year-to-year in the quarter.

The March ratings are likely helped by the health care debate, which upped ratings across the board on cable news. And no one would say MSNBC is better off with O’Donnell instead of Olbermann at 8pmET. But it does raise the question whether Olbermann still commands the audience he once did, particularly as Rachel Maddow’s stock continues to rise (her 9pmET show performed better than Countdown in March – but that was when Olbermann was out).

Read More: by Steve Krakauer, Mediaite


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