CNN Left in Dust by Fox News, New Report Shows

CNN is struggling to keep up the pace with MSNBC and Fox News, even as the network rakes in the benefits of constant breaking news from the Trump Administration. The network is falling behind the other two, and it only had one show among the top 25 cable news shows of the first quarter.

According to Nielsen data, CNN averaged 985,000 viewers during primetime and 713,000 viewers during the "total day" (6 a.m. to 6 a.m.) period. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, that's far behind MSNBC and Fox News, two networks with clear ideological points of view.

The conservative-leaning Fox News averaged 2.48 million viewers during primetime in the first quarter, and 1.45 million total day viewers. Meanwhile, the left-leaning MSNBC averaged 1.86 million primetime viewers and 1.01 million total day viewers. According to TVNewser, MSNBC boasted that it was a record quarter for the network. Even MSNBC's Morning Joe is beating CNN's New Day.

CNN only has one show in the top 25 most-watched cable shows — Anderson Cooper's AC360. MSNBC had nine shows, and Fox News had 15 in the top 25.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with producers and insiders who believe CNN's "food fight" format — where commentators of opposite political viewpoints argue while a news anchor tires to maintain order — might be on its way out. The scenes might go viral, but they do not keep viewers informed, insiders say.

"They have real problems," a veteran television executive told THR. "They're getting killed by MSNBC, and not by a new lineup on MSNBC, either."

CNN has tried to diversify, adding CNN Originals productions like documentaries and Anthony Bourdain's show that boost Sunday night ratings. Plus, is one of the most-visited sites in the U.S., with 140 million unique visitors in January and February. But the "food fight" model is still dominant on the network.

"That, to me, is why their ratings are suffering," Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning advocacy group Media Matters for America, told THR. "They think that this clash model is somehow good for ratings, and it's not."


CNN might also be losing out on viewers because it tries to play both sides of the political spectrum. But in the cutthroat world of cable news, you need extreme voices to succeed on the short-term.

"There's a Trump bump for all, but the Trump bump has favored the extremes because cable [news] favors the extremes," former CBS News president Andrew Heyward told THR. "And CNN is playing the long game, betting that eventually, when the fever breaks, it will gain competitive advantage."