CNN trumpets ratings growth, but the broader picture still isn’t great

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CNN is crowing that it posted growth in select weekday audience numbers, even as separate reports indicate it has hit new lows on weekends and it continues to lag behind its rivals in broader figures.

Quarter 3 figures were up in both total day and prime ratings over previous quarters, according to a press release from the network.

The announcement highlights the total day figures reaching 474,000 viewers over the previous quarter’s 467,000. Prime time scored around 607,000 versus 590,000 in Quarter 2 of 2023.

In the key age 25-54 demo, CNN tied with MSNBC in total day ratings. September 2023 ratings so far have put it slightly ahead of MSNBC at 86,000 versus 84,000.

The total day and prime time figures represent viewership over the two respective dayparts, total day and prime time, and do not necessarily indicate a trend in individual program ratings.

In total viewers, a metric that is distinct from total day, the network is averaging around 345,000 viewers, according to separate reports, behind Fox’s 683,000 and MSNBC’s 424,000.

The ratings news isn’t good on weekends. The network dipped in the demo, hitting the lowest point it the ratings since at least 1991.

Only 55,000 viewers in the demo watched the network’s Sunday dayside programming, according to September 2023 data. The Sunday prime time slate, which includes “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper” and “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” only saw 43,000 viewers in the demo.

The network logged 345,000 total viewers, trailing Fox News’ 683,000 and MSNBC’s 424,000.

CNN’s announcement of growth in total day and prime time quarter over quarter appears to be an attempt to stave off some of the negative ratings reports that have been published, including in the right-leaning New York Post.

The network is hardly alone in media outlets using various slices of ratings data to attempt to paint a better picture of its ratings situation; almost every network has done it at one point or another.

CNN is in the midst of some drastic changes. It launched new programs, including revamping its dayside hours and morning show. These changes have had little positive effect on ratings.

Many of these changes were implemented by former CEO Chris Licht, who left the network in June 2023 after about 13 months on the job. His successor, Mark Thompson, hasn’t started yet.

After Licht’s departure, the network announced additional talent and programming changes, many of which have yet to take effect. It’s not clear how many of these changes may have been in the works under Licht.

Warner Bros. Discovery, who acquired CNN as part of the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia in 2022 has reportedly been looking to reshape the network as less partisan, something that Licht was reportedly tasked with.

It’s not entirely clear how WBD will approach strategy going forward or if the recent ratings news will affect it one way or the other.