By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/6/2004 8:00:00 PM
Chris Matthews's stock is rising. Just check the numbers: Both his nationally syndicated weekly show and his daily cable show swept the May sweeps.
NBC Universal's The Chris Matthews Show, which is cleared in 95% of the country, tied CBS's Face the Nation and beat ABC's This Week and Fox News Sunday in the national household ratings, the show's best performance thus far in the May sweeps.
Matthews' 2.1 household rating—trouncing This Week's 2.0 and Fox News Sunday's 1.3—is a 17% improvement over Matthews' household performance last May. NBC's Meet the Press, starring Tim Russert, continues to lead the Sunday-morning news pack at 3.5.
"People are discovering this show," says Nancy Nathan, the show's executive producer. "There's huge growth on word of mouth."
Unlike Hardball, where Matthews has been criticized for his rapid-fire style that often runs roughshod over guests, The Chris Matthews Show features a kinder, gentler host. Each week, he talks informally with a roundtable of respected print and TV journalists.
One of the show's highest-rated recent episodes featured The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, ABC News' Sam Donaldson, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, and NBC News' Campbell Brown. "They love seeing these people play in a group," Nathan says.
While Nathan is always looking for ways to improve the program, she says the roundtable format works well. "The best thing to do is refine it. You never want to close the door in terms of finding new and better guests."
Says Matthews, "People get pounded with the news all week—from Iraq and now from the presidential camps. What they want on Sunday is a smart interpretation from a group of people they've come to trust and even like."
MSNBC's Hardball has outperformed CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 by 11% in total viewers for two months in a row. The weeknight program also beat 360 in household ratings, edging it out by 0.06 of a rating point. Most telling, Hardball is up 61% year-to-year in total viewers, 23% in adults 25-54, and 51% in household ratings.
Sometimes, the smart guys finish first.
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