CNN Skids to 20-Year Monthly Ratings Low in Primetime

Slip comes as CNN brings in reinforcements, including Anthony Bourdain

CNN hit a 20-year primetime ratings low in May, an expected dive for the cable news network after it posted its worst weekly ratings in two decades earlier in the month.

CNN had its lowest month primetime total viewers since October 1991. It also had its second lowest-rated month in more than 20 years in the 25-to-54 demographic most important to news advertisers.

Also read: Anthony Bourdain Joins CNN With New Show

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC were all down from May 2011, partly because this May was a slow news month, while last May included such big stories as the death of Osama bin Laden. But CNN was down much more than its rivals, falling 51 percent in total primetime viewers compared to 9 percent for top-rated Fox News and 19 percent for MSNBC. Fox averaged 1.7 million total primetime viewers, MSNBC 674,000, and CNN 389,000.

CNN brought in reinforcements this week, announcing Wednesday morning that ABC News' John Berman would join its 5 a.m. show "Early Start." On Tuesday, it announced that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain would leave the Travel Channel to join CNN's lineup with a new cooking and travel show in early 2013.

Bourdain's addition represents another move out of CNN's hard-news comfort zone. The network has also upped its celebrity coverage on the ratings-challenged primetime show "Piers Morgan Tonight."

In May, Morgan delivered the lowest 9 p.m. numbers for CNN in 20 years in both total viewers and viewers 25-54.

Here are ratings for CNN, Fox and MSNBC in May vs. May 2011. 


FNC: 1,011,000 total viewers – down 6%; (248,000 in 25-54 – down 12%)

MSNBC: 385,000 total viewers – down 19%; (124,000 in 25-54 – down 26%)

CNN: 288,000 total viewers – down 52%; (84,000 in 25-54 – down 61%)


FNC: 1,692,000 total viewers – down 9%; (326,000 in 25-54 – down 23%)

MSNBC: 674,000 total viewers – down 19%; (216,000 in 25-54 – down 21%)

CNN: 389,000 total viewers – down 51%; (114,000 in 25-54 – down 57%)

  • michael

    sorry but I fail to see how Anthony Bourdain can possibly be part of some sort of solution for CNN

  • Ned

    Maybe the viewers are tired of the left leaning reporting that CNN provides. Piers Morgan is not Larry King and it is probably time for Blitzer to be replaced.

  • Stan

    Or most probably they we are tired of the “Wrong” leaning reporting that CNN provides. Their coverage of the Occupy Movement was late and under reported. Also the fact that Libya's leader was under fire for promoting and organizing a return to Gold as a basis for world currencies…

  • pierceme

    Major reason was losing Larry King and hiring that selfobnoxious Brit who only asks stars how much money they are making, Piers Morgan, He is the downfall of CNN.

  • MoeMoe

    Imagine if they reported real news, you think that would help them

  • $21029111

    A business model that caters to the 20% of the American people who are Liberals, ignoring 80% of their potential market, and has to compete with MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC for that tiny 20% market slice, is doomed to failure.

  • marincountyman

    CNN is the new MSNBC poster child of a failing fourth estate….uber liberal, catering to everyone who believes money grows on trees and amazingly uncritical of the POTUS and public employee unions as they bankrupt our country. Thought leaders simply want timely and insightful news…which CNN used to be good at. They should just rename the station: “Biased…LIVE”. The executives should clean house and show some leadership to win back the confidence of the people they clearly have lost…change course.