CNN has had a couple of years to forget. The cable news media outlet has suffered from plummeting the ratings, continuous scandals with their staff, a change of leadership, and a million-dollar streaming service launch that failed in less than two months. This weekend, CNN’s bad streak got worst as the network registered the worst rating in more than 20 years, according to a report by Fox News and data from the Nielsen Media Research.
The network managed to only get 67,000 viewers between the ages of 25-54, a critical demographic for media outlets and much coveted by advertisers. The terrible weekend for CNN is the worst performance by the outlet since 1993, and it is just the latest symptom of a continuous loss of viewership that CNN has suffered since Trump left office.
Brian Stelter, one of the most widely known figures at CNN and the host of the Credible Sources show, also had a disappointing weekend. According to the Nielsen data cited by Fox, Stelter only got an average of 56,000 viewers within the critical 25-54 year demographic and 421,000 total viewers during his Saturday show, which is his worst performance since 2015.
According to a tweet by journalist Jon Nicosia, president of News Cycle Media, Stelter’s time on CNN is down to “weeks if not days” as he represents “everything that reminds the new owner of the Zucker era they desperately want to get past.”
CNN’s bad streak: plummeting ratings, scandals, resignations, and a failed streaming service
Most media outlets can survive one bad weekend on ratings or a couple of minor scandals that give some bad press to their brand, especially outlets that are a staple in the crowded and highly competitive media landscape of the United States, however, this is not the case of CNN. the cable news outlet has experienced not only a steady decline in viewership numbers but also a mix of various scandals that have tainted the overall image of the company and also suffered a painfully expensive failed launch of their streaming service CNN+.
Ratings on CNN have been in constant decline over the last couple of years. According to data cited by Forbes, 774,000 viewers watched CNN during February 2022, a 54% decline since 2021, and far behind the total viewership of both Fox News and MSNBC, with the former having 2.634 million and the latter 1.194 million viewers. In fact, out of all three networks, only Fox News managed to get a slight increase in their viewership, while MSNBC also suffered a significant fall when compared to 2021.
Having no viewers is enough trouble for any media outlet, but CNN has also had to handle a scandal-prone scandal. Last year, one of the network’s most visible presenters, Chris Cuomo, was caught in the middle of the scandal that ended the political life of his brother, former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. It was discovered that Chris Cuomo aided his brother during the scandal while keeping his post as a journalist on CNN, a breach of professional etiquette and ethics that forced the network to fire Cuomo in December 2021. Cuomo did not take his sacking lightly and filed a 125 million lawsuit against CNN in March 2022 for breach of contract.
Cuomo was not the only CNN TV presenter who was in the middle of a scandal. The network’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was suspended from the network for eight months after he exposed himself to other coworkers during a zoom call, Toobin defended himself saying it was a mistake and that he thought his peers could not see him at the moment the incident happened. Albeit a very embarrassing episode, Toobin eventually returned in June 2021 to his post as CNN’s chief legal analyst.
Low viewership and scandals are not the end of the troubles for CNN, as the outlet suffered another heavy financial blow earlier this year when its streaming service failed miserably after less than two months online. CNN+, which was supposed to be a key part of the future of the company, was launched in March of this year after Warner Media spent $300 million on it. However, the program failed to attract enough subscribers and was quickly ended after just one month of life.
Suffering from financial and rating problems, CNN decided to change its leadership earlier this year, after the resignation of former president Jeff Zucker (officially because he had a romantic relationship with a coworker) and the entry of Chris Licht as the new boss of the outlet. Licht has reportedly wanted to take CNN to a very different path, focusing more on hard news and restoring the reputation of the beleaguered cable news.