CNN Has Lowest Primetime Viewership In 20+ Years In May

Categories: Cable News Ratings

Written By

May 30th, 2012

The bad ratings news for CNN keeps rolling in.

May 2012* was CNN’s lowest month in primetime for total viewers in over 20 years (since October 1991).  It was also CNN’s second lowest-rated month in over 20 years in the news target adults 25-54 demographic.

The hour by hour ratings situation was also grim. CNN’s 9pm show,  Piers Morgan Tonight, delivered CNN's lowest-rated hour in more than 20 years in both P2+ and in A25-54. Erin Burnett OutFront drew CNN's worst adults 25-54 demo in the 7pm timeslot in over 20 years.

Compared to May, 2011,  CNN lost more than half of its audience in both primetime and total day in both total viewers and in the adults 25-54 demographic.  The majority of CNN’s programs lost more than half of their viewership compared to the same time period last month.

Here are the numbers that tell the tale of ratings woe:


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


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

CNN’s Major Lows this Month:

  • Primetime: lowest in 20 years in total viewers; second lowest prime in over 20 years in 25-54 (since Oct. 1991)
  • 9PM: Piers delivered the lowest 9pm timeslot for CNN in over 20 years in both total viewers and 25-54
  • 7PM: Erin Burnett delivered the lowest 25-54 demo in the timeslot in over 20 years; second lowest in total viewers

Key CNN program declines May, 2012 vs. May, 2011:


  • Anderson Cooper 360 at 8PM: 388,000 viewers – down 38%; 116,000 in A25-54 – down 41%
  • Piers Morgan at 9PM: 417,000 viewers – down 49%; 117,000 in A25-54 – down 53%
  • Anderson Cooper 360 at 10PM: 420,000 – down 59%; 147,000 in 25-54 – down 62%


  • Erin Burnett at 7PM: 307,000 viewers – down 54%; 87,000 in A25-54 – down 64%
  • John King USA at 6PM: 338,000 viewers – down 55%; 79,000 in A25-54 – down 67%
  • Situation Room with Blitzer at 5PM: 431,000 viewers – down 46%; 90,000 in A25-54 – down 62%
  • Starting Point 7-9AM: 211,000 viewers – down 51%; 73,000 in A25-54 – down 58%


*which for ratings purposes ended 5/28/12
Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2012 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

  • Piers O’Meara

    Can we really consider CNN = low ratings news anymore? Seems like the status quo in reality.

  • Dave

    CNN is certainly “not down the middle.”

  • Hillbilly

    Their solution. :lol:

    Sorry CNN fans. I shouldn’t kick you while your down.

  • David Howell

    …I’m speechless. 50% year-on-year ratings declines?!?

    Not month-on-month, though, the declines of 50%+ listed at the end of the post were from May 2011, not April 2012, so the body needs fixing from “last month” to “last year”.

    In years to come, will we see CNN as a victim of the polarization of American political discourse leaving us stuck with the FNC/MSNBC face-off?

  • Ralph Hahn

    @David Howell: >>> In years to come, will we see CNN as a victim of the polarization of American political discourse leaving us stuck with the FNC/MSNBC face-off? <<<

    David: CNN HAS been on the Obama Team for four years now. You're making it sound like CNN is straight down the middle. As for FNC v. MSNBC, the showdown was over some 15 years ago.

  • d.d.

    Maybe this will help.

    ABC’s John Berman is jumping to CNN, TVNewser has learned. Berman, who is an ABC lifer, will join the morning show “Early Start” as an anchor as well as reporting for CNN programs including “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

  • j

    CNN was never straight down the middle news network. It has gone down the drain ever since FOX News over took them for first place in the cable news ratings 10 years ago. And HLN is no good either, ever since they hired the witch hunter Nancy Grace and HLN Like CNN has Crappy reporting on both channels today.

  • NewsJunky

    There must be some very smart people who work at CNN who don’t need us to tell them that what they’re doing wrong is giving us hyper-personality driven “shows” heavy on pundits and pap instead of NEWS. That and their
    over-reliance on touch screen gimmickry and flashy graphics. Of course the audience is fleeing! The corporate honchos who thought this was the way to go had only one thing in mind, profit. Delivery of news we can use
    was a low priority. The format deserves to fail. Go back to reporting real news, not over-interpreting, trivializing,
    ignoring or inventing it.

  • Jeremy Gable

    Let’s face it, this country is too polarized now. Whether CNN is down the middle or not, the perception is that it is. People would rather hear their own opinions stated back to them these days.

    I haven’t watched CNN in years. It’s very… uhm, old skewing.

  • Tired of Idiotic Comments

    Anthony Bourdaine is leaving the Travel Channel in 2013 to head a new show on Sunday Nights on CNN. CNN has announced they are getting away from the news format on weekends, and will have more entertainment shows like Anthony Bourdaine’s “No Reservations.”

  • sciencenews

    Other than a few of the news personalities who tend to lean to one political side or the other, CNN as a network is definitely the most neutral.

    I feel that Brooke Baldwin is the best news personality they have on the network, because she covers a huge variety of topics. Most of the others focus too much on politics, which gets boring day after day when there are no important developments.

  • d.d.

    Oh, to add to, ABC’s John Berman is jumping to CNN…. & appearing on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” Why not take over for Blitzer , that sarcastic turd?

  • j

    CNN and HLN are still BIASED!

  • Ed

    Wow, how disappointing. So only three people saw Trump rip Wolfe a new ace last night?

  • Ed

    Time for Erin Burnett to start shedding some clothes.

  • Rod D

    It’s hard to imagine how a network’s ratings can drop 50% in just one year.

    Has CNN’s programming “worsened” that much over the past year?

    Or are people just not tuning into the same ol’ same ol’ any more?

  • Fan1001

    I’m sticking with Current TV.

  • Rob

    CNN – Clueless Non-existent Nobodies
    CNN – Crappy Neurotic Nuisances
    CNN – Classless Naive Nimrods
    CNN – Corrupt Nanny-state Narrators
    CNN – Crackpot No-account Narcisistic

    Or in proper terms – Last in the ratings because they are COMPLETELY NOT NEWS

  • Steve Perry

    I told you guys many times…Cable News is dying out. Digital online News is where it’s at now.

    Top Online News sites:
    #1 – Yahoo News – 110 Million
    #2 – CNN News – 74 Million (No.#1 for a TV Company)
    #3 – MSNBC News – 73 Million
    #4 – Google News – 65 Miilion
    #5 – NY Times – 59.5 Million (No.#1 for a Newspaper)
    #6 – Huffington Post – 54 Million (No. #1 for a Political website)
    #7 – Fox News – 32 Million (Not even half the visitor as CNN)
    #8 – Diggs – 25.1 Million
    #9 – Washington Post – 25 Million
    #10 – LA Times – 24.9 Million

  • JeffT

    And yet they double-down on lousy programs with lousy hosts and expect WHAT as a result? If it weren’t for viewers at airports, the locked-in audience, no one would know what a CNN is. Pathetic business model.

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