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A thought on CNN’s plunging ratings

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 4:31 am - June 1, 2012.
Filed under: Media Bias

Yesterday, while doing my cardio, I looked up to see a Clinton-supporter guest-hosting on Piers Morgan’s CNN show and interviewing Bill Clinton.  Do wonder if CNN would invite a Bush-supporter to interview George W. Bush on any of their shows.

But, well, then again, maybe it doesn’t matter:

Cold-calling celebrities in the early-morning hours. Breathlessly reporting on flesh-eating “zombie” attacks. Hiring TV chef Anthony Bourdain. There are a lot of changes going on over at CNN these days. And there’s a very good reason for all the changes: Last month, ratings for the cable news network sunk to a 20-year-low.

In May, CNN averaged a mere 389,000 viewers in primetime, its lowest total since October 1991 (back when the first George Bush was still in the White House). To be fair, all of the major news networks were down year-to-year from last May, when the death of Osama bin Liden boosted viewership. But CNN’s primetime audience declined a whopping 51 percent, finishing a distant third to Fox News and MSNBC. Most humiliatingly, CNN even fell behind its more tabloidy kid-sister station, Headline News, among key demographics.

Perhaps were the network not running cover for the Obama White House, it might find its rating a little better.  Maybe if, in addition to covering the stories promoted by the Obama campaign and broken on left-wing blogs, they picked up some stories pushed by the Romney campaign and broken by right-of-center blogs, they might find themselves providing a unique service.

We have long counted on the Big Three networks to helped promote the Democratic.  When CNN offers a product that’s already on the market, it’s not going to have trouble selling it.  They should try providing the service better — or offering one which is currently unavailable.  (See, e.,g. FoxNews.)

Maybe it’s time CNN started thinking outside the cocoon, er, box. I mean, CNN, as Ed Driscoll reports (and Glenn Reynolds links), let “itself be scooped by Fox regarding something that happened to one of its own contributors.



  1. Another example CNN Anchor Soledad “Earpiece” O’Brien beclowning herself as she defends her network’s fixation on the last shiny object dangled in front of them by the Obama campaign: Donald Trump’s birtherism.

    Comment by V the K — June 1, 2012 @ 5:56 am - June 1, 2012

  2. The only time I watch CNN is at the gym…and boy am I glad I don’t have to listen to them too…too busy listening to ZZ Top. I haven’t taken them seriously since they became Clinton News Network.

    Comment by Mary — June 1, 2012 @ 8:03 am - June 1, 2012

  3. CNN needs to stop following the Obama White House lead on Axelrod’s Shiny Happy Objects of the week. Soledad O’Brien, Piers Morgan, & a whole slew of other prime time shows need to be scuttled out the door & replaced. The CNN executives need to be fired & replaced. Otherwise, CNN won’t change.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — June 1, 2012 @ 9:30 am - June 1, 2012

  4. I hate CNN so much I avoid flying. I can’t stand that airports pipe in CNN. The airport is about the only place I listen to an iPod to drown out the horrible media coverage of non-news. I’m delighted, however, that all news has seen a shift downward. It might mean that the American public is awakening from its sleepwalking and starting to see the media for what it really is. After the Treyvon Martin fiasco, what more evidence do we need?

    Comment by Martin — June 1, 2012 @ 9:42 am - June 1, 2012

  5. Dan-

    I mostly agree with you. Except on Election Nights. FOX Election Night coverage is sooooo bad and CNN does a great job and has balanced analysis.

    On the whole, the entire gamut of cable TV news sucks.

    One channel that I’ve noticed actuallly has good, solid NEWS coverage: CNN International. But you can’t get it in the USA.


    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — June 1, 2012 @ 11:37 am - June 1, 2012

  6. Actually, Bruce, I half-agree with you. I find that whenever I’m looking for election statistics, exit polls, maps of returns , etc., CNN is the best resource. Indeed, when I wanted to confirm primary returns just this year, I would first go to CNN and found their menus very easy to navigate.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — June 1, 2012 @ 11:43 am - June 1, 2012

  7. Is there a point at which you actually should just stop even mentioning CNN?

    During the debates this year I think it became very clear how letting a media full of left wingers ask Republicans questions turned out horribly and was a waste for Republicans who actually want to know their opinions on things that mattered to them in the primaries versus what the left wing reporters wanted to try and “gotcha” them into. I’ve heard talk of not even participating in them going forward.

    Similarly, if we know the beast CNN is going to be, and it’s committing media ratings suicide, is there a point at which you just stop paying attention? If anything, your articles drawing attention to it actually prolong the process and keep them in the news and people interested. If you didn’t comment and no one watched, would it eventually just … go away? One could hope…

    Comment by Tim in MT — June 2, 2012 @ 2:14 am - June 2, 2012

  8. Tim in MT. fair critique. Very fair critique.

    Not sure I’d even been aware of CNN if it were not playing on the TV monitors at my gym . . . right in from of the cardio machines. . . .

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — June 2, 2012 @ 3:43 am - June 2, 2012

  9. Also reported from the Department of Obvious, next week the weather will be sunny in Los Angeles.

    Comment by Cinesnatch — June 2, 2012 @ 5:19 am - June 2, 2012

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