Ted Koppel gave CNN’s Brian Stelter a savage reality check about where the network would be without its continual diet of feeding on President Donald Trump.
The veteran journalist with over four decades of experience told Stelter directly that ratings at his network would be “in the toilet” without the president.
Koppel broke the news to Stelter during a panel discussion on journalism at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as he explained the co-dependency of the press and the president. He was making the point that some top media executives have admitted that Trump has been good for business,d driving up ratings as they tune in to follow the latest coverage of the president and his administration.
“That means what?” Stelter interjected. “If ratings are up, that means what?”
“The ratings are up, that means you can’t do without Donald Trump,” Koppel replied. “You would be lost without Donald Trump.”
Stelter shook his head in disagreement.
“Ted, you know that’s not true,” he said.
“CNN’s ratings would be in the toilet without Donald Trump,” Koppel reiterated, drawing laughter from the audience.
“You know that’s not true. You’re playing for laughs,” Stelter fired back. “You’ve lived through enough presidencies to know. There will be more presidents.”
He estimated a 20-40 percent increase in viewership since Trump came to office, in response to Koppel’s question about the difference in ratings before and after Trump.
“If we go back down 40 percent, that’s okay too,” the “Reliable Sources” host added. “I reject the premise that these networks are making so much money off of Trump and thus, we benefit from it.”
Koppel, who anchored ABC News’ “Nightline” for 25 years, noted that MSNBC also spends a sizable amount of its airtime covering Trump, commenting that it was apparently a “sensitive subject” for Stelter.
“Is there a moment of the day when they are not focusing on Donald Trump or some intimately related subject?” he asked.
Stelter admitted he admired the journalism legend in a tweet on Wednesday but noted that the cable news business is “a lot more complex” than made to seem by Koppel, whose daughter was a CNN correspondent from 1993 to 2006.
I admire Koppel, but I think the cable news biz is a lot more complex than he makes it seem. Ratings rise, ratings fall. Stories come, stories go. It’s important to cover Trump and it’s important to cover what comes next. https://t.co/GViF1ffb6p
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 3, 2018
According to Nielsen Media Research, CNN came in third behind MSNBC and Fox News during the third quarter of 2018. While Fox News averaged 1.4 million total viewers, MSNBC averaged 1 million and only 722,000 for CNN. Viewership was also down nine percent for CNN compared to the third quarter of 2017 while Fox News and MSNBC gained viewers.
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