NEW YORK, NY – After climbing to the mountaintop of cable news ratings at the start of 2021, it’s been all downhill for CNN ever since, and despite a leadership shake-up at the top that has already instituted numerous changes in an attempt to pull the network out of its tailspin, that negative trend is expected to only continue as time goes on.
In early 2021, CNN had knocked competitor Fox News off if its top spot amongst cable news channels, slapping the conservative network down to third place for the first time since 2000. Fast-forward to today, and a series of internal scandals – coupled with the public perception of excessively biased reporting – has seen CNN now ranked 17th among basic cable, and a paltry 31st among all cable stations.
When Chris Licht took over as CEO of CNN just over a month ago in early May 2022, he made a series of alterations to the network’s coverage in an effort to make it less blatantly politically partisan, but with little effect. This came after the dismissal of top-rated anchor Chris Cuomo – who was fired after it was revealed he was secretly assisting in defending his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, against sexual harassment allegations – as well as the resignation of long-time CNN CEO Jeff Zucker following a sex scandal.
During the run-up to his presidency, as well as throughout its term, President Donald Trump continually hammered CNN as being “fake news” often calling the agency and its reporters “terrible” going as far as recently saying Jeff Zucker was “a world-class sleazebag.”
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These factors – combined with the crash and burn disaster that was CNN+, their streaming news service that was discontinued a mere 30 days after its launch – all has made Licht’s new role as CEO, as well as his attempts to pull his network out of its extreme ratings slump, a major uphill battle.
Licht had previously stated that he would be taking CNN in a “different way” in an era where news channels are espousing more and more extreme views, and he claimed to be re-evaluating anchors that have the reputation of being too biased or too left-leaning in an effort to attract more moderate or conservative viewers.
However, since Licht has taken the reins of CNN, their ratings have only continued their downward spiral. The network’s ratings have dropped each month since May, with its current primetime lineup only attracting approximately 654,000 total viewers, with only 148,000 of those belonging in the key advertising demographic of viewers aged 25-54. This represents a one percent drop in each category since May, whereas CNN’s daytime lineup has fared even worse, dropping three percent on overall viewership and two percent in the key demo.
Even CNN’s coverage of the ongoing January 6 House Committee hearings on the insurrection at the U.S. Capital have failed to catch on with viewers, with only an average of 480,000 viewers overall, a 13 percent drop from the channel’s May averages.
Licht has proposed additional ways to make up the reduction in revenue that the channel has enjoyed in the past – including proposing advertiser-sponsored segments – but CNN’s new CEO appears to have his work cut out for him when it comes to returning the once-lofty news network back to its former prominence.