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Tipsheet

Hosts 'Growing Frustrated' As CNN Sees Worst Ratings Week in Nine Years

AP Photo/Ron Harris

It's not news, necessarily, that CNN is not keeping up with the post-Trump administration times we live in — despite a change in course directed by new boss Chris Licht following a merger between CNN's parent company and Discovery. But when tanking ratings continue to sink to levels not seen in nearly a decade, there's bound to be some talk of whether the network is salvageable at all. 

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Enter a new dispatch from TheWrap noting CNN "notched its lowest ratings in nine years across all its day parts for the week of Jan. 16 through Jan. 22, 2023," per ratings data from Nielsen: "just 444,000 viewers in primetime, 93,000 in the all-important age 25-54 news demographic and 417,000 in viewers and 80,000 in the demo for total day."

As TheWrap noted, last week was "the first time since May 2014" that saw CNN stay below 450,000 viewers. And it's not like there was a industry-wide dip in viewers last week. It turns out Fox News Channel, the leader in cable news for almost too many consecutive weeks to track at this point, had 1.4 million total viewers and 176,000 in the 25-54 demographic during the same timeframe. Their primetime shows brought in two million viewers and 256,000 in the 25-54 range.

Apparently not caring to hold back in evaluating Licht's programming success or lack thereof, TheWrap outlined the ratings woes on the fresh "CNN This Morning" with hosts he hand-picked to try competing with Morning Joe on MSNBC and Fox and Friends:

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Some especially troublesome news out of this week’s Nielsen numbers is that Licht’s primary programming move, “CNN This Morning,” also suffered the lowest week since its launch just three months ago. It averaged just 331,000 viewers while “Fox & Friends” had nearly 1 million and “Morning Joe” drew 760,000.

Licht hand-picked CNN’s Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins to host the rebooted morning show. But so far that trio is failing to grow its audience. An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap exclusively last week that EP Eric Hall was being reassigned to “CNN Tonight,” hosted by Laura Coates, signaling that Licht is aware that the show needs to perform better.

Insiders also told TheWrap that even hosts Lemon, Harlow and Collins “seem to be growing frustrated” over the direction.

“The show can’t decide strategically what exactly it is, so it’s trying to be everything which can create whiplash for a viewer when segments seem off-brand in tonality,” one insider said. “The audience for morning news on network TV is different than the cable news audience and since we’re not gaining new viewers we definitely need to retain our legacy ones”

As TheWrap previously reported, CNN will soon be launching a revamped daytime slate and anchor trios that aim to take a “fresh approach” to its daytime programming through two new programs.

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So, the attempt to bring that "fresh approach" to CNN's mornings has apparently not gone as planned, as seen in the ratings slump, and TheWrap notes that CNN "insiders" say they "fear that things are unlikely to get better" as Licht's attempts to further refresh the network's lineup "are likely to make matters worse."

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