As if things weren’t bad enough for CNN in prime time, so far in the month of April, the network that was once the cable news industry leader is now in last place It now trailing its sister station Headline News, and Larry King has been defeated by Rachel Maddow on 6 of 10 week nights.
Headline News has jumped passed CNN, in part due to the strength of Nancy Grace’s show. Overall, Fox News is still the clear leader in primetime cable news with viewers age 25-54. FNC averages 631,000 viewers compared MSNBC’s 304,300 viewers. Headline News is averaging 267,800 viewers, and CNN is bringing up the rear with 258,600. Much of the problem at CNN has to do with the 8 pm hour.
CNN had been pinning its hopes Roland Martin who has been filling in for Campbell Brown while she is on maternity leave, but last Tuesday, Martin drew only 150,000 viewers. His next closest competitor was Nancy Grace over at Headline News who had 403,000 viewers age 25-54. In terms of total viewers that night, the programming on the other 3 news networks each had over 1 million viewers, except for CNN which had 719,000.
The network has announced that they are going to run more documentaries and focus on the economy more. I would argue that it is the focus on the recession that has been hurting CNN. People know how bad the economy is. I don’t think that they want to watch hours of programming telling them how terrible things are. The ratings for the first quarter of the year showed CNN running in third behind FNC and MSNBC, but I think that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they fall to 4th sometime this year.
The quick fix would be to move Nancy Grace over to CNN, but this would probably take all of the steam out of Headline News. CNN can try to juggle their prime time emphasis, but that won’t solve the problem. The issue is that all of the competition has more interesting programming. There is prime time talent gap between CNN and the competition. CNN is competitive until 8 pm, but their ratings stay flat and don’t increase in prime time. Headline News and MSNBC grow in prime time, but CNN doesn’t. The one time industry giant needs a major shakeup, but it doesn’t look like management is ready to go down that road.