Dismal ratings show CNN ‘plateau’ in 3rd place, no sign network will abandon failing ‘food fight’ formula

CNN continues to face an uphill battle in the ratings as it clings to an “outmoded” formula that has left it stuck in third place behind rivals Fox News and MSNBC.

Besides President Trump’s regular criticisms of the network, CNN has faced the ratings stagnation due to its own insistence on using a “clash model” of staging partisan debates, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

(Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This formula is why some, like Angelo Carusone, president of the leftist organization Media Matters for America, feel CNN’s “ratings are suffering.”

“They think that this clash model is somehow good for ratings, and it’s not,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

According to THR:

As CNN has become the most visible media target in the current polarized political climate, frequently on the tongue of a president with 50 million Twitter followers, the network’s ratings are still a work in progress.

During primetime, CNN is stuck in third place in both total viewers and the key demo (25-to-54), behind the Trump-friendly Fox News and the administration-critical MSNBC. During the first quarter of the year, only Anderson Cooper’s show ranked in a Nielsen list of the top 25 cable news programs as measured by total viewers; Fox News had 15 shows on the list, and MSNBC had nine. Last year, MSNBC overtook CNN in total viewers for total day, defined as the period between 6 a.m. and 6 a.m., a trend that has continued into the first quarter of 2018.


Andrew Tyndall, a television industry analyst, believes CNN is “not in a crisis” and has no need to make changes in the network lineup while just accepting their softness in primetime.

(Image: via The Hollywood Reporter)

“They’re not going to find someone who’s like a Sean Hannity or like Rachel Maddow because that doesn’t fit in their image. They have to live with the fact that in primetime those people are getting higher ratings. But they’ve got other strengths that aren’t that,” he told THR.

Senior White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, disagrees with Tyndall.

“While it is clear that CNN has decided it is better for ratings and revenue to be reflexively anti-Trump, it appears those ratings have plateaued,” she told THR.

(Image: screenshot)


“They should either own or rethink the business model of 24/7, non-reflective invective,” said Conway, who is the only Trump administration official who appears on a semi-regular basis on CNN, echoing the president’s remarks on Twitter calling the network to “clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting.”

Some of the network’s journalists have grown tired of slamming into the “wall of Trump news” at every turn.

“I think we are at a point where we’re just exhausted,” a longtime senior producer at CNN told the Hollywood reporter. “On-air reporters who aren’t based in Washington, D.C., are running up against the wall of Trump news that they just can’t get over, or under, or through. … We know that the Trump story and his actions are very important. At the same time, it’s like we can’t get away from it.”

While Fox News made changes to its programming lineup following the departure of some network personalities, that move has not been duplicated by CNN which continues to stage “food fights,” as one veteran television executive told THR.

The relentless focus on anything-Trump, and with a negative bias, creates a “numbing” effect according to a former television journalist.

“The relentlessness and the tone of high drama at all times is a programming choice to get eyeballs and not necessarily in the best interest of viewers or the reporters doing the work,” the source told THR. “There are so many stories to be told that aren’t being told because it’s yet another panel of pundits.”


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