MSNBC Gains Ground on Fox News

First, it seemed like we were heading into a new news and political era when CNN, the network that pioneered 24/7 cable news and rigorously stuck to traditional, stand-back anchoring and news casts fell far behind Fox News – a network that wedded talk radio and overt partisanship to news. And now here’s a new twist: left-leaning MSNBC is quickly gaining round on Fox News.

Are we heading into another new era?

When President Obama won Virginia and most of the other battleground states on Tuesday night, ensuring himself a second term as president, some at MSNBC felt as if they had won as well.

During Mr. Obama’s first term, MSNBC underwent a metamorphosis from a CNN also-ran to the anti-Fox, and handily beat CNN in the ratings along the way. Now that it is known, at least to those who cannot get enough politics, as the nation’s liberal television network, the challenge in the next four years will be to capitalize on that identity.

MSNBC, a unit of NBCUniversal, has a long way to go to overtake the Fox News Channel, a unit of News Corporation: on most nights this year, Fox had two million more viewers than MSNBC.

But the two channels, which skew toward an audience that is 55 or older, are on average separated by fewer than 300,000 viewers in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers desire. On three nights in a row after the election last week, MSNBC — whose hosts reveled in Mr. Obama’s victory — had more viewers than Fox in that demographic.

“We’re closer to Fox than we’ve ever been,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, who has been trying to overtake Fox for years. “All of this is great for 2013, 2014 to keep building.”

Fox News should presumably facing its greatest era ever: Obama is re-elected so many Americans who are anti-Obama will be thirsting for a credible news and opinion source. The problem: Fox News credibility — even among many conservatives.

Meanwhile, CNN as the “moderate” news source, finds itself in a position as moderates in do in both major political parties: facing incoming missiles from the left and right, trying to find the right game plan to thrive — and survive.