CNN’s Ad Revenue Down Nearly 40% on Chris Licht’s Watch

The number of advertisers on the network also dropped 23% from the first four months of 2022

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CNN’s ad revenue fell nearly 40% year over year during Chris Licht’s tenure as CEO of the cable news network, which came to an abrupt end Wednesday.

For the first four months of 2022 — immediately before Licht’s appointment as CEO became effective — advertisers spent $513 million on CNN’s TV and digital outlets. From January through April 2023, advertisers spent $313 million, marking a 39% year-over-year decrease in ad revenue, according to data collected by MediaRadar.

MediaRadar estimates of CNN advertising spending, 2022-2023 (MediaRadar)

As the network’s troubles mounted, it experienced a particularly sharp decrease in April dropping from $153 million in April 2022 to $80 million in April 2023.

“Our data analysis suggests a significant downward trend in CNN’s ad revenue during Chris Licht’s tenure, reflecting substantial declines both in total spend and in the number of advertisers,” MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman said in a statement.

It’s important to note that ratings for February 2022 were elevated across the board due to the initial invasion of Ukraine.

The number of CNN advertisers fell 23% in the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, dropping from 2,700 companies to 2,100. Only 29% of the 2022 advertisers returned in 2023.

Major corporations like Thumbtack, Apple, Cisco and Walt Disney dropped their ad spending by 90% year over year, and far fewer companies spent large amounts with CNN. Where 68 companies spent $2 million or more on CNN properties in the first four months of 2022, only 17 companies bought ads at that level in the first four months of 2023.

Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s publicly traded parent company, does not break out revenue for CNN. In its first-quarter earnings report, it disclosed a 15% year over year drop in advertising revenue for its Networks segment, which includes CNN, citing “audience declines” as a contributing factor.

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the MediaRadar figures. MediaRadar uses data sampled from national TV broadcasts and digital campaigns to compile its estimates.