Whether the ongoing election season is influencing cable news particularly remains unclear but CNN's overall viewership is in decline as the network was once the top-rated cable channel in Monday-Sunday primetime and Monday-Friday primetime, according to a recent article.
Recent ratings suggest that MSNBC finished seventh overall in primetime, averaging over 1m viewers, while CNN’s 723,000 average viewers placed it at No. 16 among all cable networks in a late summer poll. Fox News actually beat MSNBC and CNN combined in primetime and has been the highest-rated cable network during the day for most of the summer and fall. Fox News averaged 1.8m primetime viewers, topping NBC Sports Network’s Olympics coverage by roughly 600,000 per night. USA, TBS, HGTV and NBC Sports join Fox News atop primetime cable in August
Despite an organized boycott of CNN Worldwide by Donald Trump supporters that has been ongoing since July, the news network claims it has had its highest ratings in 8 years, despite falling well behind Fox News and MSNBC in the overall ratings.
Fair or unfair, there is a perception that CNN is more of a pro-Clinton news outlet and has been dubbed the 'Clinton News Network' by many of Donald Trump's supporters.
Ironically, for the most part, CNN was once perceived as the most neutral choice between the right-leaning Fox News Network and the left-leaning MSNBC. It is possible that this years election season - with its targeting of individual broadcast journalists - and the urge by the Trump campaign to boycott CNN is taking its toll.
Recently, a Fox & Friends reporter began taunting CNN broadcast journalist Brian Selter on air. Hannity ranted that " the type of coverage CNN offers in this presidential race, is they literally kiss Hillary Clinton’s ass and Obama’s ass every day”. "I literally watched this show on CNN over the weekend, and you got this little pipsqueak named Brian Stelter. And he allowed this arrogant professor from the Kennedy School of Journalism to talk about Trump being a demagogue, and demagogues like Trump become dictators," said Hannity, a conservative media talisman.
The targeted professor, Brian Stelter, responded to the rant, according to The Wrap, saying that, “I’m glad Hannity was watching. But I wish he had addressed my actual point of my segment about him: that he should help his audience instead of misinforming them with conspiracy theories."
Conspiracy theories are so prevalent in this US election that it is difficult to predict where the "eye of Sauron" will focus next - but since July it has been very focused on CNN.
Recently, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker downplayed CNN ratings drops and has, in fact, predicted ratings will fall back down to earth after the current election cycle runs its course in November.
"There's no doubt that we are not going to have the same ratings next year, that we have this year. We're not," Zucker told the Nomura 2016 Media, Telecom & Internet Conference in New York City during a session that was webcast.
But the CNN chief added his network is well-placed for ratings and profitability in 2017 because of a broader growth strategy at the network built on "going all in" to cover breaking news as big stories, airing original series like Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and dominating the digital space in news and information, especially when targeting younger viewers.
"There's a lot of talk out there about BuzzFeed and Vice and Vox. They're all good," he said. But Zucker pointed to recent digital traffic data that has CNN outpacing upstart platforms. "Who's reaching millennials? It's CNN," Zucker told the conference.
Digital being a successful third leg of the CNN stool is rich coming from a former NBC exec who, eight years ago, dismissively coined the phrase "trading analog dollars for digital pennies." Fast-forward to today and Zucker argued digital is an increasingly key profit driver for the cable news network.
"More than 25 per cent of our global advertising is digital," he told investors. Zucker later revised that figure up to 28 per cent. "Over the next five years...as much as 50 per cent of our ad sales will be digital," he predicted.
"This is our most-watched year ever," he said, before adding: "We're within two share points of Fox News."