CNN And MSNBC Collapse In 2022, Left Without A Purpose

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2022 signaled another shift in the news industry. While the market for independent podcasters, websites, and SubStack journalists surged, the demand for established media brands waned.

The year proved hardly joyous for CNN and MSNBC. The cable news networks shed a respective 34% and 22% of their audiences in 2022.

Specifically, CNN averaged just 735,000 primetime viewers compared to 1.19 million for MSNBC.

Among viewers in the 18-49 demographic, MSNBC drew a mere 85,000, down 40% from 2021. CNN dropped 35% in the same category with 126,000 viewers.

Concerning is not only the declines but the year in which they declined. 2022 featured the highly consequential midterm elections. The year also consisted of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a raid at Mar-a-Lago, and a war between Ukraine and Russia — each of which dominated news cycles for lengthy periods.

And still, CNN and MSNBC dropped precipitously.

Historically, CNN has experienced more extensive increases than its cable news competitors during notable news periods. No network benefits more from hurricane season than CNN, as any industry guru would say.

The network may not top Fox News or MSNBC during these periods, but it records more significant gains: see its record ratings during the aftermath of Jan. 6.

The large increases suggested CNN attracted casual news viewers, those who turn to cable news during only heightened news cycles. It was as if infrequent consumers still viewed CNN as the news-first operation, the go-to outlet for breaking news.

But it appears drive-by viewers have finally realized CNN is not the moderate news network it purports to be. Rather, it’s an MSNBC imposter that’s less transparent about its biases.

Don Lemon

See, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is an avowed liberal. Yet the likes of Don Lemon continue to insist they are credible anchors. (They aren’t.)

“I don’t think we, [CNN], ever were liberal,” Lemon told CBS in November. 

Viewers no longer buy that assertion. In 2022, not a single CNN program ranked among the top 20 in cable news. Its highest-rated show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” ranked 23rd with 868,000 viewers.

Note: “Cooper 360” is still a condescending 60-minute slog. Just with fewer viewers than before.

CNN has made several roster moves under new Discovery leadership. Earlier, this year, CNN CEO Chris Licht fired Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Toobin, Chris Cillizza, and John Harwood. He also demoted Lemon from primetime to a new low-rated morning show with two female co-hosts.

But despite these changes, Licht has yet to steer the ship in a positive direction. In fact, the changes have only alienated once loyal left-wing viewers.

Licht spoke this month about the vitriol he receives from angry leftists who feel the network is now too moderate (imagine that):

“The uninformed vitriol, especially from the Left, has been stunning,” Licht told The New York Times. “Which proves my point: so much of what passes for news is name-calling, half-truths, and desperation.”

Stunning, huh?

Finally, CNN fired Chris Cuomo over one year ago but has yet to name a replacement. Licht stated he planned to name a full-time replacement for the flagship 9 pm hour by the midterms. Yet the search remains.

Despite tryouts from Laura Coates, Sara Sidner, Kasie Hunt, and Jake Tapper (who wanted to stay at 4 pm), no one has earned the starting position.

Subsequently, CNN lacks a face of the network. It employs not a counterpart to Tucker Carlson or George Stephanopoulos.

That’s a grave inconvenience for a network already struggling to find a purpose, and viewership base.

Rachel Maddow puppet

The prominent 9 pm hour also plagued MSNBC for much of 2022. Time slot host Rachel Maddow pivoted from a five-day-a-week schedule to just one day in the spring. She hosts the hour each Monday while someone named Alex Wagner anchors Tuesday through Friday.

Simply put, Alex Wagner is not Rachel Maddow.

Say what you will about Maddow’s character — she lied about Trump and Russia for three years — she moves the needle.

MSNBC averaged 1.7 million viewers during the hour in 2022. For a breakdown, the show can draw as many as 2 million viewers with Maddow on Mondays and as few as 1.2 million viewers with Wagner at the helm.

2021 proved, in Maddow’s final year as a daily host, viewers tune in to MSNBC for Maddow, and Maddow only.

Last year, her show averaged 2.6 million, while “All in with Chris Hayes” drew 1.57 million at 8 pm and “Last Word” averaged 1.79 million at 10 pm.

After Maddow, the lineup is weak — or whacky, depending on your preferred word choice.

Joy Reid is either a racist or simply plays a racist on television. Chris Hayes still lacks an audience, despite primetime billing. And Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski remain pompous marks far too preachy for morning viewing.

The network did, however, fire Tiffany Cross, who trails only Joy Reid in her racism. The network booted Cross after a series of bigoted comments and declining ratings. The New York Post also reports Cross charged the company over $100,000 in expenses for five-star hotel stays.

At least cutting the weight of Tiff is one positive heading into 2023.

Donald Trump announced is running for president in 2024.

Ultimately, CNN and MSNBC are as strong as their casting of The Boogeyman. The networks are amiss without a central villain of whom they can scare gullible leftists.

Both channels need a face for the hysteria they spread, from supposed threats to democracy to white supremacy to a war on women.

They miss Donald Trump.

The networks have tried to fill the void with Joe Rogan, Tucker Carlson, Clarence Thomas this past summer, and Elon Musk as of publication. But each has proven to be an insufficient replacement for Trump.

At least for their sake, he’s running in 2024.

Without Trump, CNN and MSNBC are without direction. His absence has forced the two to scrap and muster baseless racial hysteria.

Did you hear CNN declared daylight savings time racist? The talking point didn’t stick. But it was worth a try.

Certainly, there’s a demand for entitled hosts to identify who’s a victim, a woman, a cultural appropriator, and a Slay Queen.

Yet according to CNN and MSNBC’s ratings, that demand is hardly significant.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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