It’s only one day, but what a day. The Hill’s Joe Concha took at look at the cable-news ratings for Friday and almost required a microscope to get CNN’s viewer data. Fox News led the way, but MSNBC has managed to keep pace, both in overall viewers and in the key advertising demographic of 25-54 year olds.
CNN barely creates blip in comparison (via Twitchy):
The drop CNN is experiencing is profound. On Friday, not one program broke 900K total viewers. Prime averaged less than 800K overall.
For comparison, the network averaged 2.74 million viewers in January, so we're talking about more than two-thirds of the audience – gone. https://t.co/a4f14QXStm
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) May 10, 2021
Mediaite breaks it down further:
AC360, guest-hosted by CNN anchor John Berman, averaged the fewest viewers at 8 p.m. on Friday, with 753,000 total and 133,000 in the demo – down from Erin Burnett OutFront’s 782,000 total viewers and 185,000 in the demo. MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes saw 1.6 million total viewers and 216,000 in the demo, up from The ReidOut’s 1.31 million total viewers and 172,000 in the demo at 7 p.m. Of course, neither MSNBC nor CNN could top Fox News juggernaut Tucker Carlson Tonight, which won not only the hour but the day, with 2.66 million total viewers and 347,000 in the demo, a significant jump from Fox News Primetime’s 1.43 million total viewers and 219,000 in the demo. …
Fox News averaged the most viewers in total day, with 1.35 million, and also the most in the demo, with 209,000. MSNBC was second, with 1.08 million total viewers, and third in the demo, with 138,000. While CNN notched less than half of Fox’s viewers in total day, with 649,000, it was second in the demo, with 163,000.
Fox News also won in prime time, with 2.05 million total viewers, and 270,000 in the demo. MSNBC was second, with 1.82 million total viewers, and 227,000 in the demo. CNN was a distant third in prime time, with 799,000 total viewers and 164,000 in the demo.
Fox and Friends won in the early morning, averaging 1.14 million total viewers, and 194,000 in the demo. MSNBC’s Morning Joe was second, with 945,000 total viewers, and 115,000 in the demo. CNN’s New Day was third in total viewers, with 503,000, and second in the demo, with 145,000.
This is one day, but it’s in May — a month that used to be one of two “sweeps” months (the other was November). There aren’t any reruns in cable news, and even if the doldrums of summer have become nearly as mythical as “sweeps month” in recent years, those dog days have yet to arrive as well.
CNN is at least a little more competitive in the demo than in overall viewers. Jake Tapper scores highest in the demo and manages to beat his MSNBC competition in both time blocks. Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett did the same, although all three lagged well behind Fox in the demo. Anderson Cooper scores atrociously in that slice of the audience, however, and in prime time only Don Lemon outscores anyone — and that’s because Lawrence O’Donnell loses half of Rachel Maddow’s audience.
This looks like a collapse, and one specific to CNN. There was plenty of speculation that Donald Trump’s exit from office would kill cable news, some of it from Trump himself, but that hasn’t been the case. With a Democrat in the White House, some thought that MSNBC would lose steam, but they’re competitive with Fox, which still dominates. The only outlet losing audiences is CNN.
Perhaps this is a commentary on the lack of interest among viewers for lukewarm political takes. It could reflect talent issues in prime time as well, especially Chris Cuomo and his sleazy propagandizing for his brother Andrew while getting favors from him. Whatever it is, CNN and its AT&T corporate owners had better figure out the problem quickly before the channel fades into irrelevance.
Update: Bear in mind that both Cooper and Lemon were off that night, of which I was unaware when I wrote this post. That always impacts viewership, even when a fill-in host replaces them.