CNN’s Ratings Decline as Patience and Time are Needed for Turnaround

by Michael Nguyen
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CNN has been trying to turn things around, but it’s taking a while and nobody knows if it will be successful. Usually when something big happens in the news, ratings for all the cable news channels like CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC go up. But this year is different – ratings have dropped a lot. In March, CNN saw its ratings drop by 61%, Fox News Channel dropped by 27% and MSNBC dropped 12%.

Fox was the most watched TV channel in March, with 2.09 million viewers tuning in during prime time. MSNBC came in second with 1.14 million viewers and CNN had 473,000 viewers. The 25-54 age group (which advertisers like to target) had some of their lowest numbers for CNN since decades!

CNN is giving its network a makeover with the help of Warner Bros. Discovery. They have hired Chris Licht, an ex-CBS producer, to lead the charge. The goal here is to get back to being seen as a reliable news source after Donald Trump and his supporters attacked CNN for years. As that’s happened, other TV channels like Fox and MSNBC have become super successful by targeting one particular set of beliefs and ideas.

All the changes that Jeff Licht has made to “CNN This Morning” haven’t had a good result in terms of ratings and have been met with bad criticism, like Don Lemon’s comments about women’s age. Soon, more changes will be coming to CNN during the day time, but it will still take some time for Jeff Licht’s vision for prime time to become real.

Jeff Licht has a plan to mix news content with famous people from different backgrounds. It is said that CNN is almost close to signing contracts with Gayle King from CBS and Charles Barkley, who used to be an NBA player and now works as a sports commentator, for shows on TV once a week which will not have any kind of political perspective. However, the network refused to confirm this news.

If what Licht is planning works out, it will make CNN an even more popular news station and draw viewers away from other TV shows like Netflix or HGTV.

CNN has been trying lots of different things between 8 pm and 10 pm Eastern. They have done interviews with the first lady of the US, Jill Biden, and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Also, there were town halls hosted by Virginia’s governor Glenn Youngkin and another one about an Ohio train crash. Right now, Alisyn Camerota and Laura Coates are introducing the news hours afterwards.

Jennifer Thomas, who was a producer at CNN and now teaches journalism at Howard University, said that people watching the news are feeling puzzled with all the changes in the shows that come on during the evening. She also added that viewers need to hear more news stories with impact, rather than just commentary.

CNN is a bit proud of some things they tried, even though some didn’t turn out well. Last Friday, for instance, only 295,000 people watched Jake Tapper talking to Jason Sudeikis from the show “Ted Lasso”. This was way fewer people than those who saw Alex Wagner’s show in MSNBC at the same 9 pm slot according to Nielsen.

Recently, David Zaslav, who holds the position of head honcho at Warner Bros. Discovery, called a meeting with lots of CNN staff to encourage them to stay away from politics in news reporting and focus only on the facts.

The last president of CNN, Jeff Zucker, had a lot of success by bringing in viewers and money. But the current president, Licht, wants to take a different approach because he doesn’t like the idea of the network being partisan. He wants them to figure out what works and what doesn’t without listening to what everyone else thinks.

“Forget the number ratings,” he said. “Let’s stay focused on who we are as a team and why we came together in the first place. This is our mission. This is what we’re trying to accomplish. And this is our journey.”

Mark Whitaker, a former executive at CNN and NBC News, asked the big question for Licht and his team, which is often repeated in similar situations: “How much time do they actually have?”

Whitaker added that higher ratings generate more money to spend on programming.

Lots of people watch cable TV because they like the personalities they know, said someone. This week, CNN had three different hosts—Erin Burnett, Pamela Brown and Kaitlan Collins—between 9 pm and 12 am every night.

CNN doesn’t know for sure if people will keep watching when their new main host, Licht, arrives. They may not introduce him until fall.

Many people only watch CNN when a big story happens, but currently it’s quiet. A good way to check if people still want to watch CNN for big news is to count how many viewers tune in during these events, which usually have higher ratings than usual.

MSNBC was watched for a much longer time than CNN during the first three months of 2023. On average, people spent 381 minutes per week watching MSNBC while only 183 minutes were spent on CNN in the same period.

Rick Kaplan, a former CNN president, said that television networks are facing a hard fight. He explained that short attention spans and people who are usually too angry to pay attention make it tough for networks to keep up. He added that if shows do not have any viewers, it can ruin the network too.

Kaplan thinks CNN picked the ideal person in Licht to make good decisions. He said, “Licht will find the best way to do something.”

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