CNN Loses to Newsmax?!

Did the Trump stunt backfire? Or just an anomaly?

Daily Beast (“CNN Loses to Newsmax in Primetime Ratings Two Days After Trump Town Hall“):

Two days after the network pulled in more than 3.3 million viewers for its widely criticized town hall with former President Donald Trump, CNN found itself in fourth place among cable news networks in primetime. Worse yet, it finished behind MAGA channel Newsmax, which until recently was barely nabbing a nightly audience of 100,000. According to Nielsen, CNN averaged just 335,000 total viewers and 87,000 in the key 25-54 advertising demographic during Friday night’s 8-11 p.m. time slot. (Fridays typically draw fewer cable news viewers than other weeknights.) By comparison, Newsmax drew 357,000 viewers and 45,000 in the demo in primetime on Friday. The right-wing network has experienced a ratings boost since Fox News fired Tucker Carlson last month, seizing on conservative anger over the shocking ouster. While Fox’s viewership has dropped precipitously since then, especially in primetime, it still easily led cable news ratings on Friday night. CNN is coming off of one of its worst-rated quarters in recent history, though it did see year-over-year gains last month. At the same time, though, viewers have expressed their anger over the town hall fiasco lately and even vowed to boycott the channel.

While it would be great if the Trump townhall backfired on CNN, I’m skeptical. If you’re the sort of person who watches cable news and is looking for a relatively non-ideological venue, CNN is likely still your best bet. You’re certainly not going to Fox, MSNBC or, goodness knows, Newsmax. I suppose there’s always BBC or Al Jazeera but they’re niche outlets from an American perspective.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    At the same time, though, viewers have expressed their anger over the town hall fiasco lately and even vowed to boycott the channel.

    I almost never watch CNN.
    But being angry at them for the Trump fiasco seems unlikely to drive someone to Newsmax.
    More likely airing the Trump Campaign Rally has just suppressed their viewership while, at the same time, Newsmax is benefitting from the Tucker fallout.
    I have to take note of the comparison of MSNBC to Fox. I am unaware of MSNBC ever overtly lying, as Fox has been revealed to have done in actual court documents. And while MSNBC certainly has partisan anchors, they also have standouts like A. Melber, R. Maddow, A. Wagner, and S. Ruhle.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl: I think my position on Fox is clear enough. But both Fox and MSNBC cater to an explicitly ideological consumer base.

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  3. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @James Joyner:
    While the Overton Window certainly places MSNBC to the ideological left, we all know how misleading that can be. What everyone considers left today is actually pretty darn moderate.
    And in terms of accuracy or credibility there is absolutely no comparison.

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  4. Pylon says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl: I don’t think CNN viewers are racing to Newsmax. I think Fox viewers are though, and CNN viewers are just turnng off the TV.

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  5. DK says:

    If you’re the sort of person who watches cable news and is looking for a relatively non-ideological venue, CNN is likely still your best bet.

    Only if you think sellout performative bothsidesism isn’t an ideology.

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  6. DeD says:

    @DK:

    Can anyone say Jake Tapper? As amusing as Anderson Cooper’s cleanup on Aisle 6 was, it was startling to me that he actually did it.

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  7. Lounsbury says:

    Clearly the Murdochs Pere et Fils need to give a wee bit of assist under the table to the defamation suits by the voting machines companies against NewsMax et al.

    As historical English track record has shown, the duo have no particular calms about such things.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I am not surprised. Licht seems to have believed that triangulation between Fox and MSNBC was the trick, that giving air time to a rapist to attack his victim with a braying mob as his back-up singers would show even-handedness. Wrong. Spectacularly wrong. And so predictably wrong I don’t understand why he still has a job.

    The move to make is to reliable, quality gatekeepers. We are entering a world of deep fakes and AI-generated horseshit, and what will be needed are reliable gatekeepers to parse the quality of the data. Reliable gatekeepers do not send a naif out to do battle with a thug, especially in front of that thug’s hand-picked audience.

    As for MSNBC, they do lean on the facts, but unlike Fox they do still believe in those facts. They’ll frame and they’ll shine a light but they don’t knowingly lie, and when they make a mistake, they retract and apologize. Any equivalency between MSNBC and Fox can only be drawn by people who don’t actually watch MSNBC. Fox is a fire hose of lies, MSNBC is an honest news provider.

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  9. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The move to make is to reliable, quality gatekeepers. We are entering a world of deep fakes and AI-generated horseshit, and what will be needed are reliable gatekeepers to parse the quality of the data. Reliable gatekeepers do not send a naif out to do battle with a thug, especially in front of that thug’s hand-picked audience.

    I would love to see this. I think it is a thing that might work. The difficulty with this as a business plan is that it can’t be done overnight. That sort of credibility is the result of a long track record, and the fundamental problem is how do you get people to watch it in the first place. Nobody wants to invest on that time scale.

    I mean, CNN itself has tried to position using that method and “gravitas”. But gravitas is a performance. I actually think this strategy will work better with print media than video.

    A second issue is that there isn’t any such thing as a “neutral, objective” view. Which you didn’t advocate for, I know. But that’s CNN’s problem, it’s trying to pretend it doesn’t have a point of view. Which comes out looking like “our point of view is that we want to make lots of money by getting viewers of a variety of ideologies”.

    Personally, I never watch CNN or any other video news (reading is faster), and I think that town hall hurt Trump more than helped him. So I’m kind of “meh” about the whole thing.

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  10. CSK says:

    Jason Miller was apparently egging Trump on during the commercial breaks by showing Trump the Twitter reaction.

  11. Andy says:

    The story here that we are supposed to care about is that CNN pulled 335,000 (0.1% of the US population) viewers on a single Friday night, compared to Newsmax pulling in 357,000 viewers (slightly more than 0.1% of the population). Both of these are small numbers composed of mostly old people, especially Newsmax.

    I mean, who cares?

    Even CNN’s Trump Townhall only got 1% of the US population viewing, about the average that Tucker got until he was canned – and he pretty consistently got the most viewers. Again, the demographics are mostly old people. It’s the same story with MSNBC and the rest of cable news. Low numbers of mostly Boomers who have nothing better to do than scream at the TV.

    Why should we care?

    The only reason cable “news” matters at all is that political hobbyists and the media continue to obsess about it despite the relatively low viewership.

    And given how much I hear liberals complain about Fox and conservatives complain about MSNBC and CNN (and others), I wonder how many Fox viewers, for example, are die-hard liberals looking to get outraged.

    It’s not like the people who watch cable “news” are all that relevant. Most of them are Boomer idiots looking for their side’s talking points, or too dumb to understand they are consuming propaganda.

    To me, the whole cable news has become a self-licking ice cream cone, albeit one that is dying off along with the Boomers and remaining Silents, that should mostly be ignored.

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  12. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Andy: I am a Boomer. I’ve caught myself yelling at clouds, or the equivalent thereof. But I gave up watching live TV/cable long ago. So no yelling there.

    I post this because I wonder just how odd I am for my age group. Do most of them still watch TV/cable? Few of my same-age friends do, but I’m aware that we aren’t normal.

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  13. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Andy:
    Do you realize how offensive it is for you to suggest that because I’m in the sunset of my life, (to you) I’m irrelevant.
    I don’t scream (or even raise my voice) at CNN or MSNBC as you seem to think we boomers are bound to do.
    I watch CNN and MSNBC and generally find them to be informative, although some of the editorial shows (beginning about 3-4 pm) are a bit tedious.

    So perhaps I’m the odd duck here. I do not rely on social media to inform. We have no local newspaper. Washington Post, NYT, and WSJ are OK sources if I want to follow something in depth. OTB is another place that I like to loiter.

    So for “news” I just do the best I can, and for the time being CNN, MSNBC, and PBS/NPR suffice to give me the basics.

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  14. al Ameda says:

    Whenever I tire of the 24/7 news and opinion shows (e.g. MSNBC, CNN) with their faux-urgency and constant bright red chyrons, my default is to go to BBC World News. It’s much more low key.

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