As much as former President Donald Trump denounced CNN and other mainstream media outlets as “fake news,” covering his administration translated to high ratings that have declined substantially in the months since he left office.
For its part, CNN viewership has plummeted by more than 50% since President Joe Biden was inaugurated earlier this year, according to new data.
Shedding viewers across the board
The latest numbers represent a staggering fall compared to its stellar ratings during the period between the November presidential election and Inauguration Day.
According to Fox News, its cable news rival enjoyed a “brief post-election spike” in viewers, attracting an average of 2.2 million viewers daily for the first three weeks of January. Since then, however, the network has only averaged about 1 million daily viewers, representing a roughly 54% decline.
The dropoff was particularly steep among a key demographic for advertisers — viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. Prior to the inauguration, CNN averaged 617,000 viewers within this group, compared to only about 244,000 since.
Primetime programs led by hosts Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon also saw a big dip in viewership numbers.
With a pre-inauguration average of 3.1 million viewers combined, that figure has fallen by about 55% to less than 1.4 million since Trump left office. Among viewers in the key demographic, the dropoff was an even more severe 63%.
“The center of the news agenda”
Other cable news networks were not immune, including MSNBC, which shed about 34% of its total-day viewers and about 30% during its primetime hours in the months since Biden’s inauguration.
Fox News saw an earlier dip, losing viewers during the presidential transition period even as its top two competitors experienced a surge in the ratings.
During the post-election period, CNN actually moved into the top spot among the three major news networks as Fox fell all the way to third place as Trump supporters disappointed in its coverage sought out alternatives including Newsmax TV and One America News.
“One key will be whether CNN and MSNBC can generate enough excitement to keep their audiences engaged without Trump always being the center of the news agenda,” McCall said in Janaury. “If [Trump] stays off the news and it’s just covering Biden, it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain that audience growth. I expect some sort of natural decline once the sugar high of the inauguration has drifted off.”