CNN Hits Historic Low On Election Night, Falling To Third Place Overall For First Time In History

CNN Hits Historic Low On Election Night, Falling To Third Place Overall For First Time In History

CNN Hits Historic Low On Election Night, Falling To Third Place Overall For First Time In History

With the balance of power in Washington on the line, and hotly contested races in states from coast to coast, there was no shortage of drama as the mid-term election results came in Tuesday night, and viewership was high—with more than 19 million viewers watching across the broadcast and cable news networks. NBC’s coverage just edged ABC for most-watched on the broadcast side, with NBC delivering 3.1 million viewers and NBC right behind with 3 million. CBS’ coverage delivered a total audience of 2.6 million viewers.


Among the cable news networks, Fox News Channel finished first overall with 7.2 million viewers, followed by MSNBC, with 3.1 million viewers—the network’s “Decision 2022” live coverage led by Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid marked the first time since the network’s debut in 1996 that MSNBC has out-delivered CNN on a mid-term or presidential election night. CNN drew 2.477 million viewers, putting the original cable news network in the unfamiliar position of having the lowest-rated coverage of any of the major broadcast or cable news networks, and the network’s lowest-rated election night in more than two decades.


On a night of close contests, CNN’s “Election Night in America” live coverage, with Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon, was essentially a ratings also-ran—a sign that the ratings collapse that has decimated the network’s prime time lineup isn’t improving. The heavily-promoted launch of a brand new morning show, CNN This Morning, barely registered in the ratings, delivering just 387,000 viewers—fewer than the ratings-starved show it replaced, CNN’s New Day.


In prime time, CNN has yet to figure out how to compete without Chris Cuomo, who left the network a year ago as CNN’s highest-rated host. Jake Tapper’s turn in prime time has so far done little to suggest it could challenge its 9 p.m. competition, MSNBC’s Alex Wagner and Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Tapper’s first night in prime time drew a total audience of 808,000 viewers, putting it well behind Hannity, which easily won the hour with 2.6 million viewers, followed by MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight with 1.536 million viewers. Even as Tapper failed to break one million viewers, it was nonetheless CNN’s highest-rated show on the night—and indication of the ratings hole the network is trying to climb out of.


CNN did climb into third place overall in the key demo with 983,000 viewers, putting it ahead of ABC, CBS and MSNBC. But in terms of bragging rights—which have always been about total viewers, it was a night to forget.


Fox News Channel had the highest overall audience, with its “Democracy 2022” coverage led by Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier delivering a total prime time audience of 7.2 million viewers—beating not just MSNBC and CNN, but the broadcast networks as well. Fox also won in the key demo with 1.8 million viewers.


It was—not that long ago—a truism in cable news that CNN dominated on nights like this, whether it was breaking news like a hurricane or war, or one of those nights when people gathered around their TVs, like election night. Often, so many tuned into CNN to watch the big story unfold that the network would leap past ratings goliath Fox News Channel into first place. Those days seem to be over.


When the January 6 Committee held its first televised hearing into the attack on the U.S. Capitol, CNN’s coverage landed in third place—even with Fox News opting not to cover the hearings live. MSNBC was first with 4.2 million viewers, followed by Fox Business with 2.957 million viewers, and CNN was third among the cable news networks with an average audience of 2.6 million viewers.


In March, when Russia invaded Ukraine—traditionally the kind of huge international story that CNN would dominate—Fox News Channel had the highest-rated coverage in the first days of the war, averaging 2.2 million viewers and outperforming CNN by double digits.


Throughout its election night coverage, CNN’s anchors explored the issues that led voters to make the choices they did, and it’s likely that a very similar conversation is underway at the network today: why have viewers not come back on nights like Tuesday, and what does CNN have to do to turn this around?


CNN Hits Historic Low On Election Night, Falling To Third Place Overall For First Time In History. (2022, November 9). Forbes.

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