"You may never see those numbers again"

It’s worth noting that CNN, MSNBC, and Fox have a wide array of digital and streaming endeavors, which means you either believe that cable news will eventually fizzle out as traditional cable viewers flee, or you believe the strength of these brands creates an opportunity to establish new viewing habits and find audiences on new platforms. But conversations I had with a range of executives, producers, journalists, agents, and analysts painted a stark reality nonetheless. “We’re unlikely to reach that peak of Trumpified interest in cable news again,” one source told me. “What the networks are now trying to figure out is, how do they quickly make that okay?” Another said, “Look back before Trump, before the man ran for office, and look at where the trend lines were going. These last five years have been an anomaly.” Rich Greenfield, a media analyst with LightShed Partners, echoed that sentiment. “It honestly feels like we’re back to the run-up to the 2016 election, like we’re going back in time five years to when cable news was really about old people,” he said. “The volatility, the anger, the hatred that was spewed across cable news over the last few years, from both sides, clearly brought an audience. I would feel very comfortable saying I don’t think we’ll ever see sustained full-year ratings like we’ve just seen.”