Big Ratings for O’Donnell, Cable News’ Latest Star

by | September 30, 2010 at 12:18 PM | Cable News, TV News

MSNBC Host Lawrence O'Donnell (Photo: Getty Images)

MSNBC Host Lawrence O'Donnell (Photo: Getty Images)

MSNBC’s newest prime-time star, Lawrence O’Donnell, got off to a flying start Monday, scoring the day’s highest ratings on the cable channel for the debut of his new nightly show, ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell’ (10/9c).

‘The Last Word’ attracted a first-night audience of 928,000 (266,000 in the target demo, adults 25-54), which was more than MSNBC’s other prime-time yakkers that evening – ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ (892,000 viewers, 232,000 in the demo) and ‘Rachel Maddow’ (778,000 viewers, 250,000 in the demo), according to the Huffington Post.

On Night 2, with guest Levi Johnston, ratings fell a bit to 860,000 total viewers. There, O’Donnell cheekily posed a question to Johnston that mirrored the one that caught his almost-mother-in-law, Sarah Palin, off guard when Katie Couric interviewed her during the 2008 presidential campaign. (It was the question about what newspapers and magazines the vice presidential hopeful read habitually; you can watch his response here.)

While O’Donnell and his first-night guest, Vice President Joe Biden, attracted more viewers on premiere night than O’Donnell’s MSNBC stablemates, ‘The Last Word‘ made little headway against the 10-11 p.m. timeslot leader – ‘On the Record with Greta Van Susteren’ on Fox News Channel. Greta’s audience that evening was 1.83 million, 360,000 in the demo.

O’Donnell Gets His Shot

The multifaceted O’Donnell is an actor (‘Big Love‘), TV writer/producer (‘The West Wing‘) and Capitol Hill insider (he was once a legislative aide for the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Before earning his own show, he’d been a frequent guest – and guest host – on all the other MSNBC programs.

He may have made no dent in the audience for Van Susteren and Fox News, but O’Donnell’s Monday numbers underscored the dramatic extent to which CNN has faded from the prime-time cable news race. Anderson Cooper’s ‘AC 360′ Monday night at 10 p.m. drew just 420,000 total viewers. No wonder CNN fired its president and Cooper’s heading to daytime.

Anderson Cooper to Host Daytime Talk Show

What can CNN do to get out of this mess? And if you watched Lawrence O’Donnell this week, what do you think of his new show?