CNN‘s ratings continue to slip in primetime to their lowest numbers in seven years, despite a public about face on sensationalism and opinion shows under new boss Chris Licht.
The network, promised by Licht to ‘go a different way’ during a time ‘where extremes are dominating cable news’, appear to still be in the tank even during a month that saw the blockbuster January 6 hearings.
Despite the hearings, which drew tens of millions of viewers across multiple networks, CNN had fewer viewers in June than it did in May, which continued a months-long downward slope for the network since the invasion of Ukraine lifted them in March.
While the three major cable news outlets – CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – have all seem some declines since former President Trump left office, the numbers for CNN continue to disintegrate at an alarming rate.
CNN, which moved under Warner Discovery leadership in April, drew an average of just 654,000 viewers in primetime in June and 487,000 for one entire newsday, down one and three percent respectively.
During the committee hearings week of June 13-19, the network averaged just 480,000 viewers, the network’s worst ratings week since November 2015 and down 13 percent from those May averages.
Overall, June 2022 was the lowest-rated month for 24-hour viewership on CNN since July 2015, according to The Daily Beast.
By contrast, MSNBC – which had the highest ratings for the hearings on cable – averaged 1.28million viewers in primetime, up 26 percent from May. Fox News also had a better second quarter than they did in 2021.
CNN finished 12th among basic cable networks in both May and June. While ESPN and TNT were dominant due to their coverage of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, that still puts them behind several of their non-sports competitors.
It’s a far cry from the last days of the Trump administration, which saw the network finished tops on cable in 2020 and dispatched rival Fox News to third place.
For the final year of Trump’s presidency, CNN brought in an average of 1.79 million total viewers in primetime but the network had lost over half of that viewership by the end of 2021.
It continues a dreadful year for the network in the wake of its expensive flop CNN+ streaming service.
Licht has attempted to course correct what he sees as problems for the network’s credibility after his predecessor Jeff Zucker was ousted.
He has ordered staff to stop using the phrase ‘the big lie’ to describe Donald Trump’s 2020 election fraud claims, as it’s a Democrat slogan.
The wording is a popular one for the network. According to Mediaite, the phrase has been said 168 times in the first half of June alone.
Hosts like Reliable Sources’ Brian Stelter are often fond of the phrase to the point where they use it prominently in graphic packages and chyrons.
But Licht has ordered Stelter and other journalists to stop, and has suggested ‘Trump’s election lie’ or ‘election lie’ as possible replacements.
He issued the edict days after warning staff over their incessant use of ‘BREAKING NEWS’ graphics on stories, which he said was melodramatic, and ultimately diluted the power of big stories when they did break.
Licht is also said to be keen to move the well-resourced network back towards neutral news coverage, with CNN hailed over its coverage of the Ukraine war and other big international news stories.
A former producer at MSNBC’s Morning Joe and most recently with Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, this is far from the first time Licht has tried to get the network to tone things down since he took the reins.
Licht, as part of his efforts to revamp the outlet, has been evaluating news personalities and programs that became polarizing during Donald Trump‘s presidency.
Those who fail to get on board with the network’s new priority to become ‘less partisan’ could be terminated, CNN insiders told Axios.
Licht isn’t reportedly looking to get rid of primetime personality programming like Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon, but he does want CNN’s news staff to present information in a way that upholds the network’s apparent values of unbiased reporting.
Analysts allege this could prove problematic for network correspondents Jim Acosta and Brian Stelter, among others, who have ‘become the face of the network’s liberal shift.’
Licht wants to give the controversial personalities a chance to ‘prove they’re willing to uphold the network’s values’ before casting anyone out, the insiders said.
Specifically, he wants on-air talent, producers and bookers to make programming decisions that are focused on ‘nuance’ and don’t tarnish the CNN brand, which was once regarded as ‘the most trusted name in news.’
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