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.

  • Rod D

    @ Steve Perry

    What do the online news numbers you posted represent?

    For instance, if I visit the Huffington Post each day an average of ten times a day during May, does that count as 310, 31, or 1 in the numbers you posted.

  • Jon Haven

    Piers Morgan Tonight is awful. It’s not news. It’s mostly gossip garbage. I really don’t care for in-depth celebrity interviews. I remember, after Breitbart died, we learned that CNN had planned to do a Brietbart/Anthony Wiener show. That would’ve been great. That’s what I want to see on CNN.

  • Steve Perry

    @Rod D

    Those are unique visitors.

  • Rod D

    @ Steve Perry

    Do websites have other ways of measuring readership besides “unique visitors”? For instance do they keep track of “regular visitors”, i.e. people who might read an at least several articles a week at their website?

    I bet even the TV network CNN has over a 100 million “unique visitors” each month, since a lot of people tune into the network even for just a few seconds as they’re surfing their cable or satellite channels. And that 100 million number would not accurately reflect whether or not people are actually watching CNN’s programming.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    I’m not sure it has anything to do with “polarization” or CNN being too “liberal”.

    I think it’s more about the fact the ALL the so-called “news” networks are merely purveyors of current government propaganda. There’s too much Internet stuff available that puts the lie to most of what is being passed off as “news” by the networks. People can more easily find alternative sources which ask the questions the “news pundits” are afraid to ask.

    Most of what you’re getting about Iran and Syria, for example, is utter propaganda with no basis in reality and certainly no background to put it in perspective. The same can be said about just about every foreign and domestic policy issue.

    So the more these networks rely on loud-mouth “anchors” and “pundits”, the worse they can expect their ratings to get. People know when they’re being lied to, even if they eventually fall sucker to the lies.

    Over seventy percent of Americans think Iran actually HAS nuclear weapons, as an example, when in reality Iran does not have and never has had a “nuclear weapons program”. Without sites like and others, no one would ever know that based on the MSM.

    If you’re listening to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN or MSNBC, you’re not only a fool, you’re an ignorant fool.

  • Steve Perry

    @Rod D

    The 74 Million unique visitors to their (CNN) Website are tracked by Internet IP addresses just as it’s done for all other websites. We’re not talking about how many people tune into to wacth CNN on TV, we’re talking about how many people get their news from online. And right now, CNN is blowing Fox out of the water.

    More Americans get their news from Online and Broadcast news than any other source. Cable News is dead and doesn’t even come close to Online News and Broadcast News.

  • Scandalfan

    It’s not CNN that is getting worse it’s US the people that are. Folks are more interested in the trash and misinformation FNN is spewing than seeing/hearing the other side and think for themselves that’s our reality. Too bad tho’.

  • USAmerica1st

    Bring on the Brits (Richard Quest and Becky Anderson, etc. No disrespect to Piers Morgan) and those great reporting and great-looking international reporters. Fox has proven, looks do matter.

  • Lucard

    Lets face it, that’s what you get when you try to be fair and balanced – in the commercial US you have to pick a side and stick with it, too many uneducated people who fear objectivity.

  • Nick

    This is news to who?

    I’m thinking that maybe CNN ratings wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t air repeats during the 10 pm hour every day. Maybe something new for a change, huh?

  • Ralph Hahn

    @d.d.: Here’s more of your earlier post from the NY Daily News site:

    Long-time ABC correspondent John Berman has jumped to CNN, where he will become an anchor of CNN’s 5-7 a.m. “Early Start.”

    Berman will also report for other CNN shows like “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” says Ken Jautz, executive vice president of CNN.

    Berman started at ABC in 1995 and covered a number of high profile stories from the 1999-2000 George W. Bush campaign to the wars in Iraq and Lebanon.

    From 1997 to 1999 he was head writer for “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings.”

    ABC News President Ben Sherwood called Berman “one of the most versatile and creative storytellers in television. He is a gifted writer who brings a singular voice and flair to everything he does.”

    Jautz said Berman is “a skilled reporter with a passion and personality that shine through, whether he’s covering the political season or his beloved Red Sox.”

    “Early Start” debuted this January with Ashley Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin as cohosts.


  • Kevin

    Well, perhaps the people watching TV don’t enjoy the pro Obama tilt on CNN.
    Think about this: do you think any one of those anchors or TV hosts are actually voting for Romney? Or do you think they will ever do a hard hitting piece of Obama- tear him up liek they did Bush?
    Sorry you can’t fool people when there is bias. The number speak for themselves
    It’s sad for CNN as I can’t watch it anymore.

  • Morgan Wick

    “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.”

    If anyone was interested in “news”, then this wouldn’t have been “the way to go”.

    I’ve thought for a long time that CNN tries to be down the middle when it should have a foot on both sides and that cancelling “Crossfire” was a mistake (that failed “Parker Spitzer” experiment may have been a tacit admission of this while being far too genteel to live up to its legacy). To give you a sense of what I mean, imagine CNN hiring Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann after each lost their jobs last year and putting them on the same network.

  • Rocco

    I like Erin Burnett a lot. I dislike Piers Morgan a lot. I’d never watch that pompous, arrogant, piece of work.

    And their morning personalities are THE WORST.
    Memo to network exec: When we hate the hosts, we’re not likely to watch them.

  • Jack

    People don’t want to watch a biased, watered-down source for new anymore? Gee, I wonder why?

    Seriously, I’ll stick to NY Times and Al Jazeera for my news, thank you very much.

  • a p garcia

    If CNN ratings were middle of the road, then CNN ratings would naturally be down the middle. In reality CNN’s ratings are liberal and their ratings reflect that- GO FNC since their ratings are middle of the road.

  • Puckbubba

    Usually I surf news channels. CNBC, Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNN then FOX in that order. Never watch HLN, it is the angry ladies channel. If there is breaking news I watch CNN. Not a fan of either MSNBC or FOX. The two O’s, Lawrence O’Donnell and Bill O’Reilly are too annoying to watch. O’Donnell with his slow talk is impossible to watch.

  • Paul

    of course, Fox does not have too many internet ratings because the oldmen that watch Fox have not figured out how to use the internet yet! They will probably die before they figure it out!!

  • Pundit

    Yes. We are too stupid and too old to figure out how to work what we invented. Don’t worry. When we die we’ll leave the royalties from our patents to you.

  • Tony Martin

    CNN’s constant boring barrage of the same old warnout cast is a turnoff for most viewers. Most people are sick and tired of James Carville, Paul Begala, Roland Martin, Donna Brazile, Gloria Borger and especially Wolf Blitzer. I swear, Blitzer must live at the CNN headquarters.

    CNN has tried to recycle Soledad O’Brian more than a worn out washing maching and management still doesn’t get it. Let O’Brian do her “white hates black” specials that know one watches if she must stay.

    CNN is the worst managed network on television.

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