Ratings Implosion: CNN’s Entire Primetime Lineup Fails to Equal the Audience of One Fox Program

Mark Lennihan

Things have gone from bad to worse to unfathomable at CNN, and a new audience metric is glaringly awful.

To say that things are going badly at the network that created cable news is more than an understatement. It is approaching the point where hyperbole about how poorly CNN has been doing might be insufficient. Under the new ownership after the Warners-Discover merger, things have become dire. Many personalities have been dispatched (pour out some mango White Claw for Brian Stelter and Chris Cillizza…okay, pour it all out), shows and talent have been shuffled around, and they rapidly pulled the plug on the expensive debacle that was CNN+.


As a sign of the tumult, it was announced last week that the network staff remaining in the CNN Center located in downtown Atlanta would be completely moved to the network’s original campus. Things appear dismal inside CNN offices, and morale is plummeting – but it is not falling as drastically as the ratings. In 2022, as Fox remained basically steady, CNN managed to lose -33% of its audience, and fell -36% in the advertising demo. Making this all the more staggering, that drop is off from the numbers of the year prior–when the network lost -90% of its coveted viewers.

Things only continue to erode for CNN on the ratings front, with the reality of a very rare and eye-popping metric that emerged last Friday. When that day’s numbers came in, there was some surprise, but nothing too glaring – at first. First, Fox News held more than just the top 10 positions in the cable news ratings. Chris Hayes’ was the first non-Fox program to break the logjam at the top, coming in at #18 for MSNBC. CNN’s programs do not appear until Jake Tapper shows up, with the ironically and inaccurately named show “The Lead,” not appearing until #28 on the list.


To clarify, this is not the ranking in all of cable television ratings, this is only among the cable news programs. Now, let’s take a look at the very top of this list, and here is where things become especially embarrassing.

The top-rated program was 2022’s overall leader in cable news, “The Five.” That panel show logged 3,469,000 viewers, in line with its average figures. What is the standout statistic is this: That audience figure for the one-hour broadcast surpasses all of CNN’s primetime lineup! Beginning at 5 p.m., with “The Lead,” all the way through the 11pm hour with “CNN Tonight,” the combined audience of those shows did not total as much as Fox drew – for just the 5 p.m. hour. 

People Terry Bradwashaw
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

That is the viewership of seven CNN programs failing to draw as much as the lone show for Fox. It is rather tough to even process that disparity between what are supposed to be broadcast rivals.

None of CNN’s shows managed to draw over 700,000 sets of eyes. From Wolf Blitzer, on at 6 p.m., through the 11:00 p.m. hour, the network drew fewer than three million. One-time superstar Anderson Cooper’s show has been expanded to 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., covering the absence of Chris Cuomo. (Jake Tapper was given that extra hour ahead of the midterms, with a chance of being the permanent replacement, but he was quickly moved back to afternoons before the election even took place.) In his two-hour stint, Cooper barely draws one million viewers.


The problems, the challenges, the repair, and the changes taking place at CNN are well known. The prognosis, however, is far tougher to get a grasp on. While most know the condition of things is poor, the remedy is far less clear. All the while, as things are shifting and fixes are applied, the numbers continue to slide. At this point you have to wonder – just where does the bottom exist for the once proud network?


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