The pioneer cable news network is getting crushed in the ratings, coming in below Home and Garden TV, and has recently downsized and changed freelance payment terms – but shows no interest in changing the tone of its programming.
Both CNN and MSNBC have allowed themselves to be defined by hostility to both the administration and President Donald Trump personally since the 2016 election, breathlessly pushing the ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory.
While this strategy has largely worked for MSNBC – at least until special counsel Robert Mueller was forced to admit Russiagate was bogus – CNN has struggled to attract an audience beyond those trapped at hospitals and airports.
Nielsen TV ratings for May show Fox News dominating for the 35th straight month with 1.3 million total day viewers, MSNBC lagging behind with 909,000, and CNN in the eighth place with 552,000.
CNN wasn’t even in the top 15 primetime spots (for comparison, HGTV came in fifth), and its three main primetime shows – hosted by Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon – ranked 25, 26, and 35, respectively.
Could this have anything to do with the network’s obsession with Trump and his administration that no longer bothers hiding naked partisanship? No way, says CNN leadership, insisting they are “real news” and claiming to be victims of Trump’s “attacks” on “free press.”
In the real world, CNN offered buyouts to 100 or so people at its Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, earlier this month, including CNN International executive vice president Tony Maddox. Since then, it has also laid off a number of people from its Health division and drastically cut back production at its London bureau.
Furthermore, the network’s parent company Warner Media recently sent out a notice to contractors that it is changing payment terms beginning in June, from 30 days to 90 days – essentially asking anyone it contracts to wait three months to get paid.
But hey, have you heard that the US government now owns a condominium in New York City’s Trump Tower, because of the Mueller probe? Priorities, people!
The twist is that CNN boss Jeff Zucker is laughing all the way to the bank, because CNN’s annual profits have doubled to $1.2 billion during his tenure. Some 70 percent of the network’s revenue comes not from advertisers but from carriage fees charged from cable and satellite operators. Some 90 million US households pay these fees every year, effectively subsidizing CNN and giving the network very little incentive to change its ways.