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%)