Fox News finds itself in an unaccustomed spot _ out of first

Brett Carlsen  Getty Images                      Rachel Maddow

The network's weekday prime-time lineup, long the king of cable news, finished behind MSNBC in viewers last week, the Nielsen company said.

The story is having the opposite effect at Fox News, where conservative commentators were more skeptical about the significance of the almost daily leaks related to Trump's handling of Comey's dismissal and reports that the president shared classified intelligence with Russian diplomats during a White House visit.

CNN came in second with 1.735 million total viewers and 729,000 in the demographic.

In fact, for the week of May 15 (whose final numbers are just now being put out by Nielsen), MSNBC was the most-watched network in all of cable for prime time behind TNT, which carried several National Basketball Association playoff games. ESPN's coverage of the Golden State/San Antonio NBA series gave it the fourth and fifth best-rated programs of the week, with coverage of the NBA Draft Lottery coming in eighth.

MSNBC finally overtook Fox News Channel - and left CNN in the dust.

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The downfall of Fox News' former kingpin Bill O'Reilly has helped, too. Fox News viewers may still be expecting more substance in prime time. The natural implications of those stories might have driven prime-time commentary viewers to the network that has defined itself as the center of the Trump opposition, or to CNN and its perceived middle-road approach, rather than the network which has defined itself as Trump's apologists.

Other MSNBC shows finishing first in their respective time slots were "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" and "The 11 Hour with Brian Williams".

Fox, which has sat atop the ratings for more than 15 years, is also losing ground to both of its rivals when it comes to the "news demo". (That's in the demo and total viewers.) But with CNN and MSNBC on its heels in different dayparts, this last week will prove to be make-or-break for all parties.

All three networks are up significantly from the same period a year ago - and even with its string of nights at No. 3, FNC is still winning the month of May in both primetime and total day. Fox News, meanwhile, finished in third place in that category for the first time since June 2000.

Maddow has held MSNBC's 9 p.m. timeslot since premiering in 2008, facing off for most of that time with Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor", the longtime top-rated cable news show.

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