by: Nolan Barton
The new channel lost a huge chunk of viewers, particularly among the key demographic of adults aged 25-54, since Trump left office in January following a brief spike in viewership after Election Day.
Koppel’s teasing remark turns out to be prophetic
In a National Press Club panel discussion back in 2018, CNN anchor Ted Koppel pointed media executives admitted that Trump was good for ratings, as viewers on both sides of the aisle tuned in to see the round-the-clock drama.
CNN‘s Brian Stelter responded by asking, “That means what? If ratings are up, that means what?”
Koppel, a working journalist for over four decades, quickly answered. “The ratings are up, it means you can’t do without Donald Trump. You would be lost without Donald Trump,” Koppel said as Stelter shook his head in disagreement.
“Ted, you know that’s not true,” Stelter said.
Koppel countered by saying that the network’s ratings “would be in the toilet without Donald Trump.” (Related: Trust in “mainstream media” continues to tank, led by CNN’s abysmal numbers: Nobody trusts CNN except the stupid.)
CNN averaged 2.5 million primetime viewers from Nov. 4 last year, the day following the presidential election, through Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. But viewers fled the liberal network once President Joe Biden took office, averaging only 1.6 million primetime viewers from Jan. 21 through March 15.
The network’s viewership during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m. dropped 36 percent since Biden took office after it spiked following Election Day. CNN‘s primetime viewership declined even sharper among the key demo, plummeting 47 percent during the same period.
CNN‘s viewership also suffered in terms of total day audience since Trump left office. The network averaged 1.7 million viewers from Nov. 4 through Jan. 20, but it dropped to 1.1 million since Biden took office for a 34 percent fall. During the same period, CNN shed 44 percent of its total day viewers among the key demo, dropping from an average of 483,000 to only 272,000.
The network’s struggle among the key demographic has become even more prominent recently, with a drop of 60 percent. It has averaged 617,000 demo viewers from Dec. 28 through Inauguration Day but only 244,000 since Biden entered the White House.
Liberal primetime hosts Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon also failed to keep their audiences under the new administration. CNN averaged 3.1 million viewers from 8-11 p.m. from Dec. 28 through Inauguration Day but only 1.4 million since for a whopping decline of 55 percent. Over the same time period, CNN‘s primetime lineup lost 63 percent of its viewers among the key demo.
The decline in CNN‘s viewership before and after Biden’s inauguration this year alone was even worse. CNN averaged 2.2 million viewers during the first three weeks of 2021, but it has averaged just one million viewers since Biden took office for a decline of 54 percent.
All data is courtesy of Nielsen Media research.
CNN not helping self in public relations side of business
Just over a month ago, the chief executive of CNN‘s parent company was criticized following the insensitive remarks he made about the news organization finding a silver lining in the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“It turns out the pandemic is a pretty big part of the news cycle and that’s not going away anytime soon,” said WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, speaking about CNN‘s coverage at a media conference. “It turns out it’s really good for ratings.” (Related: CEO of CNN’s parent company draws flak for insensitive pandemic remark.)
Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Flint compared Kilar’s statement to that of disgraced media executive Les Moonves during the 2016 election.
“Careful. That’s awful close to Moonves line that Trump may be bad for U.S. but he’s good for CBS,” Flint tweeted.
Kilar was apologetic about his statement in a reply to Flint. “I agree Joe. I would like nothing more than for this pandemic to be well behind us. I mean that with every fiber in my body. I wish I could go back and be more thoughtful about my communication,” Kilar wrote.
Another Twitter user replied to Flint just after Kilar. He said: “Nah, it’s worse.”
Trump coverage boosts CNN’s ratings
Metrics do not support Kilar’s claim. CNN actually got “really good” ratings because of its coverage of Trump.
On Feb. 8, one day before the start of Trump’s second impeachment trial, CNN led all cable news networks with an average of 332,000 total viewers and 483,000 primetime viewers in the coveted 25-54 age demographic.
But on Feb. 15, two days after Trump was acquitted for the second time, CNN averaged just 255,000 total viewers and 316,000 primetime viewers. The network fell behind Fox News in terms of total viewers and trailed both Fox News and MSNBC in primetime viewership.
CNN’s loss is Fox’s gain
Fox News surged from third to first and was the only cable network to gain viewers in the target demographic during that same period. Fox News and MSNBC finished ahead of CNN in total viewers for the month of February.
For the whole of February, Biden’s first full month as president, Fox News is the most-watched network in all of cable during the key primetime hours of 8-11 p.m. The network averaged 2.5 million primetime viewers compared to 2.2 million for MSNBC and only 1.7 million for CNN. HGTV and the Hallmark Channel completed the top five.
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