Viewers abandoned CNN and MSNBC in droves in the second quarter of 2021, raising questions about whether the liberal networks can ever recover from a “serious credibility problem” they created by relying on former President Donald Trump for success while ignoring internal gaffes and scandals.
“CNN and MSNBC were one-trick ponies, and that trick was bashing Trump,” Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News.
“Now that Trump no longer is president, they have tried to keep up the mania, but it’s hard. The audience has disappeared because it never was loyal to CNN and MSNBC hosts, it was loyal to Trump hatred,” Jacobson added. “It’s not hard to imagine executives at CNN and MSNBC saying nightly prayers that Trump runs for president in 2024.”
During the second quarter, MSNBC averaged 847,000 viewers and CNN a paltry 654,000. In comparison, Fox News averaged 1.2 million viewers during the same time period to finish first on basic cable overall. CNN fell short of the million-viewer mark during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m. ET, while MSNBC trailed CNN in the key demographic of adults aged 25-54.
According to Fox News contributor Joe Concha, CNN and MSNBC are suffering from a significant credibility crisis, which is causing viewers to flee.
“Q3 will be even worse in looking at the trends for both networks, if that’s possible. The numbers are where they are because of two things: Their myopic ratings hook, Donald Trump, isn’t around anymore. But more importantly, these networks have a serious credibility problem,” Concha said, noting that left-wing stars from each network have recently generated negative headlines but went unpunished.
“When [CNN host] Chris Cuomo, for example, a primetime anchor, provides advice to his brother and his staff on how to beat back multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and the network does nothing in terms of reprimand and even awards him more airtime, that resonates with viewers,” Concha said.
“When [MSNBC host] Joy Reid refers to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as Uncle Clarence, that’s blatant racism on a national platform,” Concha added. “And when the network does nothing, that also tells viewers – the sane ones – to perhaps look elsewhere.”
CNN also surprised viewers by welcoming back chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin following his own embarrassing scandal. Concha believes that “trust will never be restored” because “that would require these networks and the egos that inhabit them to stop making themselves the story and report more than opine.”
“That ain’t happening,” Concha stated emphatically.
Tim Young, a political satirist and radio host, agreed that CNN and MSNBC would not return.
“They based their entire programming lineup on going after the bogeyman they created in Trump, and now that he’s gone, they have nothing to instill the clickbait-like fear from false stories about him to capture their viewers’ attention,” Young told Fox News.
With an average of 1.2 million viewers, CNN’s most popular program was “Cuomo Prime Time,” which finished as the No. 22 weekday show on cable news. While the scandal-plagued Chris Cuomo’s show was the most watched on CNN, it was trailed by 14 Fox News shows and eight MSNBC shows.
While CNN struggled to attract viewers in general, MSNBC faced significant challenges in the metric that keeps the lights on, as viewers from the key demographic of adults aged 25 to 54 turned away from the left-wing network.
MSNBC averaged only 115,000 viewers in the demo, compared to Fox News’ 204,000 and CNN’s 160,000. MSNBC was also last in the category during primetime, with 198,000 demo viewers, compared to 347,000 for Fox News and 224,000 for CNN’s struggling lineup of Anderson Cooper, Cuomo, and Don Lemon.
In the critical category, several MSNBC programs had their worst quarterly results in years.