Cable News Is Basically Now Just The Donald Trump Show

Even taking the fact that he is the Republican frontrunner into account, Donald Trump is getting a disproportionate amount of attention from the political media.


Not surprisingly, the first two and a half months of cable news coverage of the Presidential campaign has been all about Donald Trump:

Cable news can’t get enough of Donald Trump.

Since announcing his run for president in June, the real-estate developer and reality-TV star has dominated coverage of the 2016 race, much to the chagrin of other candidates.

CNN has been especially hooked on tracking Mr. Trump and is expecting record ratings and advertising revenue for its telecast of the second Republican candidate debate on Wednesday evening.

From June 16, the day he announced he was running, through Sept. 14, Mr. Trump has been the subject of at least 2,159 CNN reports, according to Zignal Labs, a San Francisco-based firm that monitors social, online and traditional media.

That is almost double the amount of time CNN has spent on former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who was leading the field prior to Mr. Trump’s rise. Mr. Bush has been mentioned in 1,087 stories during the same time. Next up is Ted Cruz with 416 mentions. No other candidates managed to crack 400 mentions on the Time Warner Inc.-owned news channel.

Mr. Trump has gotten outsize coverage at the other cable news channels, 21st Century Fox’s Fox News, and Comcast Corp.’s MSNBC, but not to the same extent as CNN, according to Zignal’s data. (21st Century Fox and Wall Street Journal owner News Corpwere part of the same company until mid-2013.)


The thirst for Mr. Trump was on full display Monday night. CNN cut into Anderson Cooper’s prime-time show to broadcast over 40 minutes of the candidate’s rally at an arena in Dallas, where he delivered more or less his standard “stump” speech. CNN interrupted only for commercials from Microsoft, Dr. Scholls and others. MSNBC also carried Monday’s Dallas speech, cutting into “All In with Chris Hayes” under a “Breaking News” banner.

“The effect of the Trump coverage has been to rob this utterly fascinating, very broad and qualified field of candidates of the serious attention they deserve,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is now director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

There is little doubt that Mr. Trump—who hurls insults and proudly eschews “political correctness”—is good for ratings and revenue. CNN has been battling ratings declines, but the “Summer of Trump” has paid off. From June through August CNN was up 8% in prime-time viewers compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen. Fox News grew 9% while MSNBC gained 10%. Higher ratings mean the networks can charge more for ad time.

CNN’s spotlight on Mr. Trump is even more glaring in terms of minutes. According to the Media Research Center, during the last two weeks of August, Mr. Trump received 580 minutes of air time during the evening on CNN, compared with 88 minutes for Mr. Bush.

Mr. Trump, who complained about his treatment by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly during its debate last month, has been discussed or covered on Fox 1,540 times since announcing his candidacy while Mr. Bush has received 1,012 mentions. MSNBC has featured Mr. Trump in 1,426 stories and Mr. Bush in 1,257 features or news items.

This chart demonstrates quite clearly just how much more coverage Trump is getting compared to the rest of the candidates:

Trump Cable Chart

In addition to Monday night’s Trump speech in Dallas, which was covered live by all three cable news networks, each of whom then spent the balance of the rest of the evening talking about said Trump speech, there have been other numerous examples of the media essentially turning into The Donald Trump Show. Just a bit under a month ago, for example, Trump gave a speech at the 40,000-seat Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Despite the fact that Trump did not fill the stadium, and despite the fact that it was a Friday night near the end of summer, all three networks carried the speech live. In addition to those standout examples, of course, there are the numerous times when the cable and broadcast networks have allowed Trump to phone in for interviews rather than showing up in the studio, appearing by satellite, or pre-taping a sit-down interview with a reporter. That is a privilege granted to pretty much no other politician unless its a situation where technical difficulties make appearing in person or by video impossible, but it’s one that is granted regularly to Trump, who has generally only appeared in sit-down interviews conducted on his own terms in one of his own buildings. When it comes to scheduling The Donald on television, Trump sets the parameters and, with the notable exception of Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, the media happily plays along.

I’ve seen plenty of discussion about the media’s obsession with Trump and what explains it. Many conservatives who are opposed to Trump, for example, see it as an example of some effort on the part of the media to demonize the right by associating them with someone like Trump. The reality, though, is much simpler than that. First of all, the simple fact of the matters is that Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican Presidential Nomination at the moment and that naturally means that he’s going to be getting the most attention of anyone in the race. He’s leading in the polls nationally, as well as in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. If you look back at the history of other recent Presidential campaigns, it almost always ends up being the person who’s at the head of the pack that gets the most attention, and it’s no surprise that the same thing is happening this time around. Additionally, for better or worse Trump is a celebrity beyond politics whose presence in the race draws interest from people who aren’t even necessarily interested in politics. The Fox News debate last month drew in 24 million viewers, a record for a primary debate, and it’s hard to believe that most of those people were tuning to see Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or John Kasich. It’s probable that tonight’s debate on CNN will draw similar numbers, which is why CNN increased the ad rates for today’s debate coverage. In other words, the media covers Trump a lot because that’s what they viewers are tuning in to see, and in the end it’s all about ratings. Finally, one of the main reasons that Trump is getting so much coverage is because of is penchant to say outrageous things that end up becoming fodder for yet more discussion. Given the amount of air time that these networks need to fill, it’s not surprising that they’re spending a lot of time talking about the latest outrageous thing that Donald Trump has said.

So, yes, cable news is spending a lot of time talking about Donald Trump but that’s to be expected under the circumstances, and it’s probably going to continue for the foreseeable future.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Agree. The Permanent Presidential Campaign is now really just a format for a large block of media outlets (including a solid portion of OTB). Mr. Trump gets the best attention because news consumers crave coverage on the ‘most exciting talent’.

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    “Donald Trump reminds me of Agent Smith in Matrix pt3: a chaotic selfish force trying to take over and destroy the system he comes from.” -Eli Gerzon


  3. LaMont says:

    I understand why and how it is happening. The fact that it is happening at this rate is bizarre to me. I mean, the guy gets live cut-aways during prime-time new cycle hours! In for what? To hear about how he’s “gonna make America great” by “doing better deals”, and promising that he will be “tha best”? Yes, I knew this would be a clown show that exposes the GOP but this has far surpassed my initial expectations. Is this what our politics is going to look like in the future as the “reality TV” phenomenon continues to take over – even in politics? I am constantly reminded of that movie “Idiocracy”!

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    The cable tabloid news stations are nit interested in news but attracting eyeballs. When my late mother was alive she watched FOX news all day. When she passed away I watched MSNBC. Now I watch the weather channel..

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Completely in concert with my observation.

    The last 3 evenings on my commute ferry across the bay, the flat screens have been tuned to CNN, and I can tell you it really is non-stop Trump programming. Monday night – they were breathlessly setting up the debate, Fiorina v Trump! Tuesday night, same thing, but add in Donald Trump to give address on the USS Iowa.

    I realize that to conservatives CNN is a liberal media cesspool, part of the evil liberal media empire, but the GOP is getting 24/7 air play right now – oh wait, Trump is a RINO … nevermind.

  6. James Pearce says:

    My theory on this has to do with accessibility. Donald Trump has long been media savvy and during this campaign he has been very accessible. Anderson Cooper shows up at Trump Tower and, of course Trump will come down for a few minutes. They’ll do the sit-down right there in the lobby.

    They never need to wonder what Trump is thinking. They just need to pick up the phone and call him. He’ll let you record it for playback, and probably give you a good soundbite.

    While Hillary is roping off reporters, Trump is getting cozy, cozy, cozy. Trump’s politics are not ready for primetime, but Donald Trump is very much so.

  7. Franklin says:

    Cable News Is Basically Now Just The Donald Trump Show

    Interesting. Any mention of OTB officially changing its name to DTB?

    /Donald Trump Blog

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Trump is the bully on the grade school playground.
    Bullys make good TV.
    TV is only…ONLY…interested in ratings.
    Which is why I left broadcast journalism in the waning years of last century…shortly after the last episode of a celebrity reaching similar notoriety…OJ Simpson.

  9. John Peabody says:

    @C. Clavin: C. Clavin- ALL media is interested in ratings / clicks / readers. Some are more subtle than others, but all require mass interest to stay in business. It’s a business!

  10. DrDaveT says:

    Donald Trump is for cable news what Hurricane Sandy was for The Weather Channel. You expect them to drop coverage in the middle of the build-up to the disaster?

  11. Tillman says:

    I had been wondering how he kept up such a polling margin until this tweet found me some weeks back. This is partly our fault however. By not being good consumers of the trash that proffers itself as cable news nowadays (exceptions being few and far-between), we made them desperate enough to promote the intellectual equivalent of a sapient gas bladder as a presidential nominee.

  12. ernieyeball says:

    @Ron Beasley: Now I watch the weather channel..

    Since my TV at home doesn’t get any channels my exposure to the tube flatscreen is limited to motels when I travel.
    Tell me Ron? Is there ever a Weather Report on the Weather Channel anymore?
    Or is that just for the Birds?

  13. Dave Francis says:

    The heart of the Republican party, the Democrats are getting real desperate and digging almost aimlessly in Trumps past, to find something any something that can damage the reputation of the man? They are so frantic that they are pulling at any previous issue that can importune his character. A piece of dirt from his past as bankruptcies, the Canadian health care system, (actually the Social Health Care system worked well in Scotland until the 1950s, when Britain allowed 100,000s of unceasing legal immigration from its colonies at that time?); or anything that speaks of liberalism? But nothing is working that can drag the front runner down. The career politicians can scream and rant, but it makes any different to me. The Congress has had years and trillions of dollars to straighten a wilting American and next to nothing has been done. This giant nation has been withering on the vine for decades and we have nothing to show for it? Just more jobless, taxes and profits for the cronies of the ultra wealthy?

    A country without a strong leader as Donald trump is dead. It’s time the Status Que bites the bullet? If Bush, Clinton wins the race, or their political kinship class we have already lost to the Special Interests.

    Its too late for both political parties as Trump has imprinted himself on the eye cornea of millions of Democrats, Conservatives, Independents Liberals and a large consignment of silent voices who have been hidden away from the voting booth up to now? On the other hand Bernie Sanders is not acceptable, as I see his voters as wanting something for–Nothing and he has a socialist, even Communistic agenda? I still have good thoughts about Senator Cruz who seems to have some interesting camaraderie with the business, come politician whereas, Donald Trump, is drawing the crowds as he fits into the populist label and although he doesn’t fully identify his plans for our country, he however with his powerful consultants that he refers too, would structure a better America for my grandchildren.

    So far this administration has not completely suppressed free speech, with people running scared from the Progressive radicals politically correct police, who have spied on the people–in the name of National Security. The top politicos, the mainstream wealthy cannot buy Trump as other politicians who toe the political line, so the powerful warlords are furious and helpless. The usual suspects such as Jeb Bush and the Hillary Clinton have already lost their way, as they have nothing to offer their wealthy donors in return for 5 million dollar checks? These two and the some of the others are mystified by the growing points Donald Trump is collecting in the polls. The Special Interests are climbing out of the woodwork, like the money cockroaches they are and still don’t realize they have already lost.

    The American people have finally woken up to the massive quandary, with the blame falling directly in Obama’s lap. Whether its the illegal alien invasion that is costing the American people minus the small amount of tax they pay a100 billion dollars. 40 Billion dollars going outside the country to people abroad. 4.5 Billion in fraudulent child care credits and the extraordinary cash payments to illegal Mothers of ‘Anchor babies’. The birthright citizenship law is manipulated to include pregnant mothers slipping across the border, arriving by transatlantic jets to have their baby here as a American citizen, who collects the cornucopia of citizen entitlements.

    Donald Trumps WALL will Enforce the border and it makes sense to me that Mexico will pay for it. The answer is simple to Trump as President, by placing a tax on every piece of merchandise that is transported through the Southern border. China, and Japan will face the same restrictions, by paying their fair share of tariffs on incoming cars and other products. It might be Free-Trade to the list of countries we trade with, but it gives us little or zero compensatory returns? Currently, none of these countries mentioned and other nations have really free trade treaties will be forced to pay. Under Trump they will be mass deportations and a return to law and order, no Amnesty or Path to Citizenship. Some would be allowed to return, but those who hide criminal intent of any description will not be allowed back under the Moral Turpitude law, that lawful immigrants are held too?

    All the multinational offshore corporations that have been busy moving to Mexico, Japan, China and the new free trade countries with low worker salaries, poor conditions and perhaps no taxes will be arriving back in the states. If Trump implements substantial less corporation taxes, companies will reappear and more jobs will begin to come back. Business owners will realize they are better off staying in America because of the tariffs placed any item entering our sovereign lands. Even while Trump was talking about giant companies as Ford and Nabrisco moving to Mexico, General Electric is also moving its industry over to Mexico, but they better be attentive that Trump will place import duties on that industry? My trust is in Mr. Trump as indifferent to the big financially dictatorship companies that run our country, he will make them pay their fair share of taxes; plus half American population pay little or nothing. As I see it carry previous administrations and the larger amount of the 18 Trillion dollars we now owe is by the signature of Barack Obama. Every agenda of this Ex businessman gets my vote, as with the mans handle of knowing the personages in the military, businessman and every other self sufficient expert on the Earth, he can streamline our homeland to the fullest extent and realize the American Dream again?

  14. Dave Francis says:

    Obama has downgraded our military to the time of the Nazi regime and the Empire of Japan running amok. Its no wonder Russia is mobilizing its military, along with China. Even with the majority in the Senate and House, the Republicans are afraid they would get blamed for any number of issues including the decimation of our military around the world. Trump has already stated on board the decommissioned battleship the SS Iowa that he would make our military a force to be reckoned with? The army, navy and air force will be once again invincible as a defender of helpless nations and a purveyor of peace across the globe. No foreign nation would dare challenge us again on the battlefield, with new types of superior aircraft, ships and advanced technology in missile protection.

    Under President Obama he left Poland and the Czechoslovakian Republic seriously powerless against Putin’s new vision of a Soviet State. Look into the portal of the future when Obama is gone with this unbalanced agreement with Iran? As I have added before, Israel if provoked will send its war planes and level the Iranian military bases, with either general or tactical nuclear weapons. They will be fully prepared for any suspicious movements of Tehran and destroy anything that reeks of destruction of their homeland. They will be justified as Obama’s management is one of passive intervention with promises by IRAN, when they have cheated on any agreement since the initial revolution.

    Our military has shielded the downtrodden around the world, such as Saudi people against the tyrant Saddam Hussein and didn’t even get a few million barrels of oil as a thank you? Of course with secret negotiations who knows what piles of cash changed hands? Trump will rebuild our military as the greatest in the world to defend America and therefore our National security. And those soldiers who fall, there families will be perpetually want for nothing, including those brave men and women who return handicapped who deserve everything a grateful nation can offer.

    And in conclusion a issue that affects every legal immigrant, citizen and all those naturalized? The American people will never be satisfied with people who broke the law, stealing into a sovereign nation. Illegal aliens are NOT immigrants? They are thieves of the peoples rights and what is even worse King Obama and his Administration has ignored the Rule of Law and taken it upon himself to welcome even more poverty to our shores and across the border. The cost to the US taxpayer is significant and the magnet that drives millions of unwanted foreigners here are jobs, welfare and a new life.

    But this country already has its miserable poor, its less educated and sick and mentally ill and endless lines of people seeking a job–any job. Our prisons are now full of illegal alien criminals that the Obama’s government has dumped back into our neighborhoods, who commit more insidious crimes. Everybody knows by now the ‘Sanctuary City’ ordinance, that first became the public spotlight with the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco that has tarnished California as a Liberal Progressive stronghold for illegal aliens, criminal or not?

    But I suggest in my own mind, whether it is that entering America for the first time, without being processed has been concocted as a deliberate Civil offense, a conspiracy between the two major politic factions as a organized scheme, whereas in other civilized countries its classed as a felony. I believe this was done so millions could arrive here for the wealthy corporate and industrial needs. Since then foreign nationals have organized demanding more and more from previous and prior governments. Today they get all citizens entitlements, using their birthright offspring as a fulcrum to collect cash payments, low income housing, food stamps, health care and other welfare services.

    Trump–DONALD TRUMP has determined they must leave, beginning with the illegal alien gangs that are creating havoc in every street and alley; murders, rapes and other felonious criminal acts.
    Whether Birthright Citizenship can be amended and the ‘Anchor Baby’ rescinded, is beyond my knowledge of the law, and best left for constitutional law professors to interpret? But their is another way, that is relatively simple and demands that employers are no longer above the law and could face serious punishment and even prison.

    Put into practice MANDATORY E-VERIFY or its new digitally approved operation. So that no employer, no illegal worker escapes. It might cost billions as with Donald trumps WALL, but it will finally cease and desist the illegal alien invasion as once the word goes out that jobs are no longer available in the United States. Thousands of ICE agents carrying a pocket computer tablet would check the books of suspected employers who are hiring illegal foreign workers. It would be progressive but with a monetary reward for whistle blowers, no employer using cheap labor would be safe. It can be done and should be done on a grand scale, in every county. As president Ben Carson expressed, that we need a GUEST WORKER program. A turnstile agreement with foreign workers that your job is picking crops and that may only stay and work in designated areas of agriculture. You may apply for a working visa that once expired, you must reapply of if caught immediately deported, never to return?

  15. Tyrell says:

    These “news” networks are nothing but propaganda arms for some groups. I gave up on them long ago. I get my news from am radio, you tube, the local coffee shops , car repair shops, and a cb radio. Ted Turner has to be disgusted and dismayed with what CNN has become. And NBC: used to be widely respected. The crew they have now would not have been allowed on the NBC parking lot.
    “It is not news, and it is not breaking”

  16. Grewgills says:

    @Dave Francis:
    Thank you for another cut and paste post. Normally I would have to venture over to the Brietbart comments section for such full barreled truthiness. Your cutting and pasting here has made all of us wiser. Please continue to spread the gospel. We need more of you.

  17. Grewgills says:

    My local coffee shops and mechanics haven’t been sharing their political wisdom or the real news with me. Do you have any suggestions for better coffee shops or mechanics? Do I need to know a secret password or handshake for them to give me the straight dope?

  18. Tyrell says:

    @Grewgills: Well, just hang around and start talking. Last Saturday some were giving their thoughts about the immigation and refugee problems.

  19. M. Bouffant says:

    @Tyrell: Breaker breaker One-Niner! Catch you on the flip-flp!

  20. dazedandconfused says:

    The bean counters are running CNN and they wish to be as happy as the News Corp’s bean counters are. They saw the ratings FOX got for their debate and devoted the entire week to promoting theirs. Even had a running count-down timer over forty hours ago.

    I know it cost them a fortune to cash Ted Turner out. Ted donated a billion dollars to the UN after that. Or maybe it was Africa. At any rate the old CNN is dead, which raises the question of if there is anybody on the tube dedicated to real journalism anymore. A heck of a lot of the voting public still gets most of their information from the Tee Vee so the implications vis a vis the knowledge of our sovereign, The People, and the good men and women who won’t have anything to do with politics because of the current state of affairs.

    Democracy is a dicey business at best and it’s hard to picture effective function when run by the grossly mis and under informed People. Even harder to imagine when hardly any of our best and brightest can no longer stomach the BS to participate. It’s become too much a game that only interests hucksters.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    @Dave Francis: Who could have guessed that psychiatric hospitals dole out such liberal internet privileges…

  22. To be a martyr, he would have to be dead. \r\n Does anyone understand the meaning of “civil disobedience”?