The rise of Carlson, and the fall of Van Susteren
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For Tucker Carlson and Greta Van Susteren, their respective first weeks at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox News and 6:00 p.m. on MSNBC saw two very different results.


For Carlson, who is currently the new "it" guy on cable news, his first week in Megyn Kelly's old time slot showed that Fox doesn't rebuild, it reloads.

Over his first five programs at 9:00 pm, Carlson - a former CNN and MSNBC host - finished as the #1-rated program in the key 25-54 demographic twice, as the second most-watched program twice, and came in third overall once, averaging a whopping 576,000 in the key demographic (the 25-54 demo is the one advertisers value most).

Compared to the same week in 2016, Carlson's ratings are up 21 percent over Megyn Kelly's in the same time slot when compared to the same time last year in the key demo.

So on the Fox front, it appears that the loss of Kelly -- who finished #2 overall in 2016 despite an unofficial boycott of her show from Trump supporters -- has initially turned into a net-gain for the network.

For Van Susteren, the results from her first week in her new home at MSNBC has been a much different story. Each day during the week of Jan. 9-13, Van Susteren finished a decided third to CNN's Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room (2nd) and Fox's "Special Report with Bret Baier" (1st).

Overall, the former civil defense attorney averaged just 172,000 viewers in the key demo, compared to 284,000 for CNN's Blitzer and 467,000 for Fox's Baier.

But more ominously, it appears Van Susteren is going backward instead of forward, as she finished as the lowest-rated program on MSNBC from 5:00 pm to midnight on Thursday and Friday, even losing to a Chris Hayes repeat at 11:00 pm ET by 100,000 viewers in the key demo (248,000 to 145,000) on Friday.

So what gives? Greta has brought in plenty of guests from across the political spectrum (Republicans Reince Preibus and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE on her debut show alone) and already has the kind of big name-brand recognition that comes with hosting on the cable news scene on CNN and Fox respectively for 22 years combined. And with the Trump inauguration coming up and confirmation hearings bringing ample material to work with, it's not exactly a slow time in the business.

The answer appears to be that MSNBC's audience - a solid majority of which is progressive - isn't embracing a former Fox host, at least not yet, even if she is the centrist many deem her to be.

This Daily Kos column seems to reflect the sentiment seen on social media in liberal circles regarding the hiring of Van Susteren by MSNBC over a liberal like Joy Reid, who hosts a weekend show on the network. The headline: "Joy Reid Delivered Huge Ratings for MSNBC, So They Chose the Fox Reject." It read, in part:

If you were waiting for a daily news program featuring a lightweight, partisan hack with absolutely no charisma, then MSNBC really came through for you Monday night.

Greta Van Susteren’s “For the Record” debuted — not to be confused with the Fox show she no longer has  “On the Record." Despite the preposition change, Van Susteren’s show was pretty much indistinguishable from her old show on Fox. A softball question followed by an occasional harder one that she allowed the guest to evade. I really don’t understand CEO Phillip Griffin’s reasoning for hiring her: she had low ratings with a conservative audience at Fox — does he think she’ll find more conservatives over at MSNBC?

As stupid as that sounds, NBC honchos seem to be doubling down on that strategy. Greta joins Morning Joe, Chris Mathews, and more recently, Megyn “Don’t Worry Kids, Santa isn’t White” Kelly. Pretty good lineup for the demographic of people who are too stupid to realize they aren’t watching Fox.

And therein lies the rub: We're so polarized as a country now that many cable news viewers appear to only wish to have their worldview validated by running off to safe spaces on the dial. 

Or perhaps Van Susteren - who had arguably the best time slot in all of cable news between Fox's "Special Report" (ranked #3) and "The O'Reilly Factor" (ranked #1) -- was simply the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. 

Either way, think of how fortunes can change so quickly in this business. 

Let's put it this way: What if I told you in early September that...

- Tucker Carlson is now the hottest ticket in cable news right now in Megyn Kelly's old spot at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox.

- The aforementioned Kelly - arguably 2016's most talked-about host - won't be on the air at all anchoring coverage of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE's inauguration and may not be seen until after Labor Day.

- Greta Van Susteren is now a distant third in her time slot. 

Would you believe me if I told you that? 

Because I sure as hell wouldn't.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.