Amid reports of CNN’s dismal ratings, many are ready to start lighting the network’s funeral pyre. Indeed, the outlet has been struggling to maintain viewership since new leadership brought about a drastic shakeup at the organization.
Since then, CNN has received criticism from the right and left. Conservatives continue to slam the network for its left-wing bias while progressives have castigated the new leadership for supposedly moving the company’s coverage further to the right.
But it might not exactly be time to celebrate CNN’s demise just yet.
When it was reported that the network had new leadership, I speculated that even if they are serious about turning CNN into more of a straight-reporting outlet, it might be too late. After having spent the last seven years functioning as an anti-Trump propaganda mill, it might be too much to ask viewers to return. Indeed, it saw a huge ratings drop during the Trump era, and it has still not recovered. But now, it is struggling to find its new sweet spot.
The Daily Beast reported:
More than a year after firing its most-watched anchor Chris Cuomo over an ethics scandal involving his disgraced ex-governor brother, the cable-news pioneer has struggled to find a permanent replacement in the 9 p.m. time slot. Last month, the network decided to fill the pivotal hour with town-hall events and specials focusing on hot-button news topics, as well as interviews with prominent politicians and celebrities.
CNN’s recent shift in primetime programming has yet to attract viewers, despite the network’s efforts to revamp its content. In fact, CNN’s primetime specials have attracted fewer viewers than the network’s regular programming in the same time slot this year, according to a recent report.
CNN’s regular programming at 9 p.m., anchored by Anderson Cooper, has averaged 679,000 total viewers since the beginning of the year. Erin Burnett, who fills in during primetime, has averaged an overall audience of 567,000. In the key advertising demographic of 25-54-year-olds, Cooper has averaged 159,000 viewers, while Burnett has pulled in 114,000.
In contrast, the network’s recent town-hall events that aired in the 9 p.m. hour have attracted only 429,000 total viewers and 101,000 in the key demographic. The hourlong events covered various topics, including the East Palestine train disaster, the fentanyl crisis, and a Q&A with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The network has also aired special reports on topics such as anti-Semitism, the Alex Murdaugh trial, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The network has also interviewed notable figures such as First Lady Jill Biden, HBO late-night host Bill Maher, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Not looking good for CNN, is it?
There are several factors that are at work in this story. For starters, anytime an organization like CNN makes drastic changes to its lineup and reporting, it’s going to rattle some cages. Those tuning in because they prefer the far-left, anti-Trump propaganda have probably lost interest. Moreover, those who were used to CNN’s cast of characters and shows might be jarred by the sudden change. Also, those it lost because of previous CEO Jeff Zucker’s decision to use the network as his weapon against Trump are still not likely to return just yet.
Some of these issues seem normal for an organization that is reimagining the way it does business. Current CNN CEO Chris Licht and his boss, chief executive of Warner Bros Discovery David Zaslav seem to understand what is happening here.
The New York Times obtained a transcript of Zaslav’s remarks in which he said they are “trying to figure out what is the best CNN.”
“What are the stories we should be telling? What’s the right balance?” Zaslav asked, adding: “Let’s get a lot wrong in the next year.”
A CNN spokesman reiterated these sentiments:
“We’ve been openly experimenting with a variety of programming directions over the past few weeks. Without an established format, cadence or promotion for that hour, the network has focused exclusively on producing smart and meaningful content — not on ratings.”
CNN has a long way to go, if it is going to get back to straight reporting without the heavy bias. Indeed, its programming is still swayed in favor of the left despite getting rid of its more inflammatory hosts. Still, even if it does everything right, it may have just sacrificed far too much goodwill to be considered a reputable news outlet once again.