CNN Exodus Continues, Network Suffers Worst Ratings Week in 9 Years

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CNN had hoped for a better new year. In 2022, the network recorded substantial declines in daytime and primetime. But the early results of 2023 are hardly promising.

For the week of Jan. 16 through Jan. 22, 2023, CNN suffered its lowest ratings week in nine years. Not since the Obama administration had the network experienced such a drought.

CNN averaged 444,000 viewers in primetime, and 93,000 in the advertiser-coveted age 25-54 news demographic. CNN averaged 417,000 and 80,000 in the demo in the daytime.

That’s the first time since May 2014 the network failed to draw an audience of at least 450,000.

Specifically, the Don Lemon-fronted morning show saw its lowest week since its launch three months ago. Only 331,000 viewers tuned in to “CNN This Morning,” a cancelable offense at any other time in cable news history.

By comparison, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” drew 760,000 viewers head-to-head. “Fox & Friends” led competition with nearly 1 million. (Fox News Channel and OutKick share the same parent company.)

CNN demoted Lemon from primetime late last year. Though Lemon dishonesty framed the move as a “promotion,” an insider tells The Wrap he’s now growing frustrated with the morning program.

“[Don Lemon and co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins]” seem to be growing frustrated over the direction,” reports the outlet.

“The show can’t decide strategically what exactly it is, so it’s trying to be everything which can create whiplash for a viewer when segments seem off-brand in tonality,” the insider adds. “The audience for morning news on network TV is different than the cable news audience and since we’re not gaining new viewers we definitely need to retain our legacy ones.”

Equally problematic as mornings is what’s happening at 9 p.m. Or what’s not happening.

CNN fired Chris Cuomo in Dec. 2021 but has yet to name a full-time replacement for the flagship hour. The network continues to rotate the timeslot with C-listers like Laura Coates, Sara Sidner and Kasie Hunt — none of whom have moved the needle.

A recent Semafor report says CNN CEO Chris Licht could look to add a “comedian” for its 9 to 11 primetime hours, naming Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah and Arsenio Hall as possibilities.

But as I told Fox News, Maher is a long shot and the others are neither funny nor influential. (Stewart, who now apologies for being white, is a far cry from his former “Daily Show” self.)


Still, to diagnose a problem is simple. Viewers have exited CNN. They have not returned. They are not returning.

That’s the problem.

What’s difficult, however, is finding a solution. A solution may not exist. Where does CNN go from here? Certainly, new management doesn’t have said answer.

Licht has promised a more news-focused edict under his leadership. But 2022 proved viewers no longer turn to CNN for “news.”

Consider the network lost 34 percent of its viewers in a year that featured midterm elections,  Roe v. Wade, a raid at Mar-a-Lago, and a war between Ukraine and Russia.

I discussed what this suggests about the trajectory of the network in a recent column. In short:

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.

You can read the full piece below:

Ultimately, CNN lacks an identity, a purpose.

The channel has insufficiently replaced Donald Trump as its boogeyman, a central villain to propagate dishonesty.

The Right has, rightfully, lost trust in CNN. And a push from leadership to move toward the middle has alienated the Left, which feels betrayed.

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

CNN once set the market for news coverage. Today, there’s minimal market demand for the CNN brand.

Former CNN viewers have confirmed as much. 

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest media topics as well as trending sports, cultural and political stories.

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcast and radio stations.

Previously, Burack was a writer at The Big Lead where he covered similar topics. He also hosted an eponymous podcast where he interviewed several personalities such as Joe Tessitore, and Adam Schefter.


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  1. CNN is on one of the TVs near my favorite treadmill at the gym; I’ve noticed day or night, weekday or weekend, winter, spring, summer, or fall, it is just Jerry Springeresque, stupid-ass reporting and commentary, delivered by people that are untalented, unsophisticated, and can be easily refuted or better yet, replaced. CNN is completely unwatchable for people with a healthy, functional brain.

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