More CNN Ratings Woes and Programming Changes…

I keep waiting for CNN to bottom out with these oxygen sucking ratings downer headlines. CNN’s programming isn’t that abysmal and yet the ratings keep on dropping. I’m beginning to wonder if the negative buzz is partly the problem; where all the horrid headlines are affecting viewing habits. Kind of like how banks sometimes fail; rumors start that a healthy bank is having trouble, there’s a run on the bank as everyone pulls their money out, and then the previously healthy bank does indeed fail.

Politico’s Dylan Byers makes a familiar point today, one that I’ve read too often lately…

While CNN struggles to make 24-hour news compelling, its competitors at Fox News and MSNBC have redefined the industry. They have eschewed traditional, straight-forward news gathering in favor of partisan, personality driven analysis — a model that is increasingly successful in an era of hyper-partisan politics, but one that CNN has resisted even as its ratings continue their slow and steady decline.

Right. And that’s why MSNBC and FNC’s ratings keep going up up up in primetime this year. Oh wait…they’re going down, down, down? Wha?

Looks like we need a new theory because everyone is down in primetime.

Look, I’m not going to try and snow you and say everything is pitch perfect at CNN because that obviously isn’t the case. But I think we need to put to bed once and for all the idea that personality driven analysis is the holy grail of cable news. I think the real story is that cable news is in a down cycle in what is historically an up cycle year (presidential election year). It’s hurting CNN worse because CNN is news dependent and with no major sustained breaking news cycles to feed off of and an unusually comatose election news cycle not generating expected election news cycle ratings, CNN is more vulnerable.

But that doesn’t mean CNN can stay the course and ride it out. Not with a primetime that typically consists of two live hours and one repeat, a lead-in which isn’t tearing it up in the ratings, and a lead-in to the lead-in which just got cancelled.

Meanwhile there was unpredictable predictable news in the morning. It was predictable that John Berman’s arrival would mean someone was leaving at Early Start. But what wasn’t predictable was that it was Ashleigh Banfield. Of the three potential anchors, Banfield, Sambolin, and Berman, Banfield had the biggest name recognition and the biggest cable news resume. So, on paper at least, Banfield’s departure potentially weakens Early Start. I say “potentially” because we don’t yet know how Sambolin and Berman will work out paired together. Maybe they’ll click and the show will rebound? Can’t know that yet.

Banfield’s arrival to 11am occurred as a result of Kyra Phillips demotion move to HLN where, if you parsed Scot Safon’s memo carefully, she’ll get POV’d. That may prove interesting but it’s still a harsh move for such a veteran CNN anchor who had persevered through many previous dayside talent purges.

Moving Banfield to 11 also has the (perhaps) unintended consequence of putting pressure on CNN to do something with Carol Costello’s preceding two hours. I’m actually quite dumbstruck that the network hasn’t done more to tailor Costello’s shift to her the way it has Suzanne Malveaux’s and Brooke Baldwin’s. It doesn’t even have the custom open that the other two have. They’ve tried a few things but nothing has really stuck. It still doesn’t feel like Costello’s show the way Malveaux’s and Baldwin’s do. They need to come up with a gameplan and stick to it.

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35 Responses to “More CNN Ratings Woes and Programming Changes…”

  1. Looks like we need a new theory because everyone is down in primetime.

    Twitter and tablets. Twitter is killing cable news on Breaking News (see: Twitter is covering the Colorado fire, cable news is not), and more people are watching their favorite POV shows on the internet.

    For instance, my daughter used to watch MSNBC after work, which meant she saw Ed, Rachel and Lawrence. Now she’s unplugged the cable, and only watches Rachel on the internet. Ed and Lawrence were on, so she caught them, too, but she’s not that interested. How many people will be watching The Factor this way, and skipping Hannity and Greta a few years from now..?

  2. lonestar77 Says:

    I guess I’m bucking the trend because I’ve been watching a little more CNN lately. I don’t hate Erin Burnett’s show and probably catch it a couple times a week.

    I’ve never bought the “CNN is failing because they do straight news”. For one, while they may attempt straight news, they’re unquestionably left wing. They’re not crazy left like MSNBC but they are definitely left. Some hosts are fairly moderate but many could easily find a job at MSNBC. And, FNC has straight news programs that kick everyone else’s butts.

    CNN has many problems. One is branding. CNN = boring. It’s the station that I was forced to watch as a child because it was the only 24 hour news channel. CNN sounds old. And, they have way too many freaking people. Election coverage is a joke. They have 5 round tables with 25 people sitting at each one. Also, because they have a branding problem and are perceived as an “old people station”, they try too hard with their magic boards and holograms and twitter responses and all the other techno garbage. It’s like watching my ailing 72 yr-old Mom try to mess with her IPad.

  3. I’ve never bought the “CNN is failing because they do straight news”. For one, while they may attempt straight news, they’re unquestionably left wing. They’re not crazy left like MSNBC but they are definitely left. Some hosts are fairly moderate but many could easily find a job at MSNBC. And, FNC has straight news programs that kick everyone else’s butts.

    That. Is. Insane.

  4. But true. The Clinton News Network isn’t now, hasn’t ever, been free from liberal bias. Even if head-in-sand Joe were right, the fact that a huge percent of the electorate is convinced otherwise, is a deterrent to its ratings.

  5. I remember when TV network nightly news was 15 minutes, when you got most of your news from the daily morning paper, when there waws breaking news you turned on the radio. THINGS CHANGE. big deal, quit whining.

  6. savefarris Says:

    They’re not crazy left like MSNBC but they are definitely left. Some hosts are fairly moderate but many could easily find a job at MSNBC.

    Former:
    Spitzer
    Thomas Roberts

    Current:
    Soledad
    Lemon
    Fareed
    Cafferty
    Schneider
    Toobin
    Begala
    Carville
    Gergen
    Brazille
    Roland Martin

  7. Mixing anchors and commentators together doesn’t do much to back up your delusional argument. The conservative fantasy is that rightwing is neutral..everything else is left. It is not, and never will be, true. You’re lying to yourselves and each other.

  8. lonestar77 Says:

    “The conservative fantasy is that rightwing is neutral..everything else is left.”

    That’s simply not true. CNN has left wing hosts all day long. But, as I said some are moderate. I can’t think of a single host at CNN who leans right. I can think of plenty who lean left. Just because you don’t want things to be true doesn’t mean they aren’t. You seem to think that MSNBC equals leaning left. It doesn’t. It equals batshiite crazy. CNN equals leaning left.

  9. “I think we need to put to bed once and for all the idea that personality driven analysis is the holy grail of cable news.”

    True dat!!! That philosophy works fine for political talk shows – there are some personality shows I like. But it is not necessary for a good news program. Having a quality news show that isn’t about some media starlet trying to sell me on their fun personality would be a welcome alternative to much of cable news. Unfortunately, CNN has not caught on to Spud’s wisdom. While dropkicking Kyra to HLN, they specifically outline her new show as being based on her “passions and personality.” Oh, that’s original. CNN’s recent new show endeavors (outfront, piers morgan, parker/spitzer, in the arena, bourdain) is ENTIRELY about personality and little else. They are desperate to create sizzle and not really interested in improving the substance.

  10. Joe is right, you can’t mix commentators with anchors. Savefarris conveniently left out a whole roster of right-wingers. In case you are wondering, if you require your conservative commentator to tell you how to think, pick your poison…

    Ari Fleischer
    Mary Matalin
    Will Cain
    Margaret Hoover
    Fran Townsend
    Erik Erickson
    Dana Loesch
    Jon Avlon
    Amy Holmes
    Alex Castellanos
    David Frum

    Name one anchor that leans to the right? Erin Burnett. Careful though, she will trick you – she is more Northeastern Republican or Wall Street Liberal depending on how you look at it. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative and quite vocal about it. You have to admit, there is a distinct pattern of those in the “blogosphere” who like her show – they almost always lean right. Those of us most vocal about not liking her, tend to lean left. No judgments, just an observation.

  11. It is ridiculously dishonest to conflate anchors with opinion-people, especially when you purposely avoid mentioning all the conservative voices. I think that CNN leans left, but there is no lack of conservative contribution. I also think that most of them try to be fair, which goes a long way with me.

  12. Laura, I agree. As I liberal, I can admit the CNN anchors tend to lean left. Does anyone really believe Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Soledad O’Brien, and Piers Morgan are conservative or republicans? Yeah, I don’t think so. But, for the most part, as an organization they do try to be down the middle and I just can’t put CNN in the same line of work as MSNBC. They are clearly offering two different products.

  13. And Jack Cafferty is not liberal, if you actually listen to him.

  14. CNN’s problem is they are too boring,John King’s show was boring they need to have a different pace to news not the same thing every hour and more than just politics

  15. lonestar77 Says:

    Regarding Erin Burnett, I think you got it right, Elle. I haven’t quite figured her out but “Northeastern Republican” sounds about right. Like you said, she seems to somewhat fiscally conservative and somewhat socially liberal. Anyway, she’s about as “conservative” as you’re going to find in a CNN host.

  16. lonestar77 Says:

    “And Jack Cafferty is not liberal,”

    Jack is just an angry old man. He was definitely tougher on Bush than Obama but if you catch him on the right day, he could sound like Limbaugh. I think he just likes being mad at people. I’m waiting for him to yell at someone to get off his lawn.

  17. ^ Ditto. He’s like CNN’s Liz Trotta.

  18. lonestar77 Says:

    As I stated before, I don’t put CNN in the same category as MSNBC, either. CNN attempts news. They just have an overall left-wing slant as does every news organization out there with the exception of FNC. I like CNN and I wish they’d do better. They just have major branding problems and they try too hard to be edgy and cool. They’re stuck with the reputation of being in the tank for Democrats so many conservatives won’t give them a chance anymore. I try to but so much of their programming just sucks. They’re the 45 yr old dad in skinny jeans and an affliction t-shirt. They just don’t quite get it. They continue to swing and miss, big time.
    Begala, Carville, Brazille, Gergen Mary Matalin. Dump the cold war era talkers and continue with the Dana Loesch’s, Will Cain’s, etc. And someone needs to punch Jon Avlon in the face. He’s terrible. And, it drives me crazy that they present him as the referee. He’s not down the middle. He’s a left-wing as Begala. He’s just not as hyperbolic.

  19. This is a far reaching theory, but what if this is the slow positioning for CNN to become more of a mix of international news and HLN takes on more of the pov/domestic side? Just straight news as their doing isn’t going to work these days if you don’t have an international component to it, -which they have. If your in last place and going to go all out, then that’s the way to do it is merge CNNI feeds into CNN and go after people who want BBC style/real news.

    Also, I would think Costello would make a better HLN host than Phillips as she’s empathetic and offers a personalized take on the news. If you were to remove HLN’s primetime/crimetime and just leave dayside (minus crime) you would have what CNN dayside should be. It should be breaking news and not opinion but a overall voice included for the viewers who are watching. “Emo news” if you will is the future of news, but not in the political sense.

  20. At least T.J. Holmes is gone. Yuck. Wish he had taken Malveaux along for the ride.

    Lemon one of their better anchors. He has a brain.

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  22. lonestar77 Says:

    Geez. I thought that surely there’d be others who’d like to punch Jon Avlon in the face. What’s wrong with you people? :)

  23. Um, I don’t know who he is. Don’t spend much time on CNN past noon.

  24. lonestar77 Says:

    ^ oh, lucky, lucky you.

  25. ^ Does Judy Woodruff still host Inside Politics?

  26. Judy does a great job on The PBS NEWSHOUR.

  27. readerj Says:

    CNN’s evening programming is boring and looks depressing, with the dark colored backgrounds. I just put on 360 and it’s got this poorly designed, gloomy dark blue/black color scheme going and the background graphics are too big and distracting. FNC has moving graphics behind the hosts too, but they are brighter and the images are abstract and small enough to serve the purpose of keeping the screen alive when they place static content up there. CNN has been running the same chyron through most of a segment on Fast and Furious instead of updating it to add more details and information. They told viewers to go read the story at CNN’s website and didn’t give a specific URL or section. Then they had Tom Foreman reporting from what looks like the lower level of a lime green parking garage. He’s got a big screen next to him and it looks like the contrast and saturation has been turned way down on it. It just doesn’t look engaging. They just had pretty striking video of the Colorado fire and instead of running it on the full screen, shrunk it to a little window so you could continue to see lots of that gloomy abstract 360 background. Why?

    On the other hand, If I am home on a weekend and want to put the news on, I’ll watch CNN since their regular anchors are good. I like Candy Crowley’s Sunday show and Fareed Zakaria and would probably watch plenty of CNN International if they ran that from 8-11pm weekdays. I like Soledad and Malvaux and Whitfield and Toobin and Sanjay Gupta and Don Lemon, and I watched primary election night coverage mostly on CNN during the brief time the GOP primaries were competitive. I enjoyed listening to John King explain the numbers coming in from particular districts and what they indicated about the likely outcome. I thought it was very well produced and professional and you could actually learn something. But the election, too, has gotten to be pretty boring and I expect Obama to be easily reelected. And I do look to Twitter first when there’s breaking news. If Shep is covering it on FNC, I’ll watch that.. otherwise probably CNN but it’s not that essential.

  28. I’ve mentioned CNN’s look before..it’s interesting to hear someone else has noticed the same thing. There’s a cold blackness to their sets, like they’re filming in a warehouse in the industrial park without heat. It’s very off-putting.

  29. For Fox watchers, who are left wing, moderate or conservitive often depends on what network they are on at the time. Bill Hemmer was a lefty on CNN but when he moved to FOX he’s a moderate all of a sudden. The same goes for Greta and John Roberts. Major Garret was a non-partisan reporter on FNC but when he appears on MSNBC he’s a lefty hack.

  30. Fritz paints with a broad brush… or perhaps his fingers.

    Every person he mentions we’re pretty middle of the road no matter where they were and are. John Roberts gets to be a reporter at FNC and he is damn good at it. Major left FNC to get back to reporting and provides great work, though he has trouble getting a word in edgewise at MSNBC with all the Lefty Yappers.

  31. “Every person he mentions we’re pretty middle of the road no matter where they were and are.”

    ^^ Absolutly correct except when ‘reporters’ like Roberts were hosting at CNN they were constantled by casgated as left wing mouthpieces. Now, at FNC, they’re a ‘damn good reporter’.

  32. FRITZ being his usual lazy self. Let’s see some of the castigations of Roberts as a “left wing mouthpiece”.

    As it was done “constantly” should be east to come up with a bunch.

  33. easy, that is

  34. neverpay6 Says:

    For me
    1. I dvr over 10 hours of cable shows (news/opinion) daily

    I watch the most entertaining shows , my bent is traditional , libritarian, stay away from hannity, Ed, Lawrence.

    I have watched o’reilly daily for 10 years, I get a kick out of his , independent, often confusing stances, the time he blasted the right for calling for Ellen to be fired from J.C. Penny’s .

    I love him and Miller, Millet sums it up best when he says o’reilly is like the old Irish beat cop, calling it as he sees it.

    I like Greta, Cavuto cracks me up, Candy on CNN, Erin on CNN,

    I miss judge Napalitano and his libertarian slant, I like Stossel, morning Joe, if I fast forward to the guests I enjoy.

    I refrain from name calling, calling people who love msnbc , CNN, fox, I respect everyone’s right to support their views.

    In looking at CNN’S ratings nose dive, I do not see it as a leaning to far right or left, they do not entertain.

    Think of the talent they have let get away, Greta, Beck ( I can’t stand him, but he is entertaining, he will earn $20,000,000 this year, blowing Oprah’s new channel away, go figure), the entire Crossfire Crew, even old Larry, I can’t think of others, help me.

    A mix of straight news, entertaining opinion, panel shows, building personalities, engaging their audience, forget about political correctness, have the stones to pick a path and follow it.

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