The CNN Ratings Disaster Would Be Worse Without Its Manufactured Audience
By Brad Slager
Although it draws attention for being an anti-Trump news outlet, the network is working to deflect attention away from its severe audience flight.
Brian Stelter was mad. That alone is not newsworthy, as many on-air personalities over at the Apple Network have been perturbed for two and a half years now. But what he was in a snit over was both odd and completely lacking in self-awareness, a condition CNN has suffered for some time now.
Unsurprisingly, it was tweeting from the White House that sparked the reaction. Stelter was set off by President Trump making a number of comments and tweets in support of the news channel One America News Network (OANN). The notably right-leaning outlet has been a favorable source of news for the president, and in return (as a reward?) he has lately been touting the channel in his feed.
Stelter was having none of it. CNN’s self-appointed media watchdog launched a series of tweets demeaning the network’s presence and ridiculing the idea they have “good” ratings.
With Trump promoting @OANN again this week, I went looking for ratings data. How many people besides the president are watching? OANN doesn’t subscribe to Nielsen, the industry standard. But it turns out that Nielsen IS measuring the channel…
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 15, 2019
This is subterfuge, as Trump was not comparing the OANN audience share to the larger networks’. Brian pretends to counter the claim that OANN has big ratings—except Trump’s words on the matter were that the network was experiencing a “big ratings jump.” His comment was stating they are on the rise.
In attempting to counter the president, this was hardly Stelter’s largest mistake. That would be his mention of ratings at all, considering his home channel has been in a free fall with viewership for a good portion of this year. Once the industry standard, CNN has fallen well behind the other major cable news channels—Fox News and MSNBC—for years. And 2019 has gone from bad to brutal for the network.
Statistician, Heal Thyself
It is revealing that Stelter’s Twitter thread hesitates to get into the hard numbers. CNN has been enduring consistent erosion, trailing in primetime behind not just other news nets but also channels like The Food Network and The Hallmark Channel. Fox News frequently outdraws CNN in multiples, at a three or four to one ratio some nights. CNN’s audience flight became even starker following the arrival of the special counsel report, with double-digit percentage drops in the ratings in the days following its release.