June 5, 2023

The Delightful Agony of CNN

If you think Fox News has had a tough time of it lately, imagine working for CNN.

It’s been a rough stretch for The Most Trusted Name in News™.

First came the grim realization a couple of weeks ago that the network is running in peanut butter without Donald Trump around to turbocharge its ratings. The 70-minute May 10 broadcast was CNN’s highest-rated program in more than two years, having been narrowly edged by a town hall with Joe Biden just after his election, back when he was still relevant. (Perhaps the network should bring back Biden for an encore. We suspect folks would tune in once again, if only for the same reason many of them tune in to a NASCAR race.)

A second dose of demoralization hit CNN more recently in the form of a story in The Atlantic. Perhaps the title of the piece, “Inside the Meltdown,” should’ve tipped us off.

As it turns out, CNN’s recently appointed CEO, Chris Licht, gave unprecedented access to The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta to cover the turbulent year he’s had as CNN’s CEO. Several months, nearly 100 interviews, and 15,000 words later, The Atlantic published a piece loaded with dirt on the network’s dirty laundry — including its recent widely watched and widely criticized town hall with Trump, as well as Licht’s not-so-good working relationship with dimwitted reprobate anchor Don Lemon, who was finally defenestrated in April.

“The consensus among people who knew Tim Alberta’s piece was coming,” said another ex-CNNer, the network’s onetime media critic Brian Stelter, “is that it’s much ‘worse’ than they expected. Licht confided in Alberta the way a client confides in a therapist. Some CNN staffers are shocked.”

Are Licht’s days numbered? Does anyone care? As Ari Blaff writes in National Review: “Licht’s boss, David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, was losing confidence in the CNN executive. ‘It had become apparent, from my reporting, that Licht’s circle was small and getting smaller. He obviously felt that he couldn’t trust some of the people around him,’ Alberta wrote in the piece, published Friday.”

With “friends” like The Atlantic, who needs a proctologist?

Just how bad has it gotten for CNN? This bad: In a recent Clash of the Lilliputians, CNN’s dreamy Anderson Cooper hosted a special one night at 10 p.m. but lost the ratings battle — 282,000 to 249,000 — to Newsmax, which featured Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz guest-hosting for Greg Kelly. (For reference, both networks trailed Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, who drew 1.2 million viewers during that time slot.)

Sadly for CNN, this wasn’t an anomaly. Gloria Vanderbilt’s youngest son has also been losing his regular 8 p.m. “AC360°” matchup with Newsmax’s Eric Bolling. (Anyone who thought even a handful of Fox News’s viewers would find their way over to CNN in the wake of the network’s firing of Tucker Carlson has been bitterly disappointed. Cooper’s show, which is the network’s best performer, ranks a dismal 27th among cable news shows. Carlson’s show, for reference, was averaging more than three million viewers a night before the network’s management cut off its nose to spite its face.)

For the month of May, the first whole month of primetime Fox News programming without Carlson, the three competing cable news networks posted the following primetime viewership averages: Fox News: 1.42 million; MSNBC: 1.16 million; CNN: 494,000.

Ouch. Pretty soon, immediate family members are going to stop watching CNN. As to whether the network’s effort to chart a more centrist course under Richt is working: It ain’t. The grim number above represents a 25% drop in primetime ratings compared to last May — and this despite the ratings boost it got from the Trump town hall.

Could Trump’s appearance have given the network a bump followed by a plunge? It’s possible. And it’s possible that CNN’s handful of viewers took Cooper literally when he told them they “have every right to be outraged and angry and never watch this network again” in the wake of the Trump town hall outrage.

In any case, ya hate to see it. Just hate to see it.

And as it pertains to CNN, most people aren’t.

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