CNN was on a mission to help derail the Trump presidency and with that mission now completed, it would appear that CNN’s usefulness has run out for most people.
According to Variety, CNN without Trump is like a flower without sunlight. It’s quickly wilting and withering away without the light by which it grew fat and healthy for years. Without a target at which to channel all of its hatred and paranoia-inducing reporting, CNN is losing nearly half its audience during its prime-time hours:
While January 2021 will go down in the ratings record books for CNN, the last week of the month may offer a portent of what the post-Trump era will be like for the network.
In the first week of the Biden administration, the AT&T-owned news channel saw the audiences that had been flooding into primetime recently drop precipitously on Jan. 25-29 compared with the highs of previous weeks. Meanwhile, rival Fox News Channel saw its own ratings only dip slightly after weeks of registering its own sharp declines.
Another network that has been characterized as left-leaning, MSNBC, has also seen significant declines but nowhere near as steep as what has hit CNN: Variety Intelligence Platform’s analysis of the viewership data across two key metrics—the target news demographic for people ages 25-54, and the total audience watching—shows that CNN ended the final week of January with ratings dropping roughly 44% for total audience versus the prior week across all three hours of primetime.
While it’s too early to conclude any longer-term direction for news ratings after just one week, the downturn could be interpreted as an indicator of what many industry observers had anticipated: With Biden in the White House, networks that have spent the last four years railing consistently against Trump have lost the main attraction that energized their audience bases, making it difficult to hold onto the elevated viewing levels.
CNN had turned itself into a sideshow by making its network all about one thing, and now that the one thing is gone there’s not much reason to tune in anymore. Many of CNN’s viewers were feeding on the fear and rage it cooked up over Trump and now that Joe Biden has taken the White House, many of its viewers are going to go back to figurative sleep thinking all is well and they don’t have to worry anymore.
The conversation likely happening in meeting rooms right now at CNN is what they can now focus on to bring their audiences back. It needs a Trump-level threat to get people’s eyes and ears to refocus on the network.
At this juncture, it’s good to remind everyone that CNN, and indeed all news organizations, aren’t public services. They’re businesses with a vested interest in making you pay attention to them. It’s a common practice to sensationalize something far beyond its actual level of interest in order to have you riveted to your seat, and your eyes glued to the screen.
It’s safer to think of CNN as more of an entertainment channel than a news channel. Every report it gives is designed to make you interested in the network, not the news.
The fact that it’s sinking fast without Trump is proof of this beyond a shadow of a doubt.