Friday, May 24, 2024

CNN: Jeff Zucker’s Big Problem Wasn’t His Girlfriend, It Was A Lack of Ratings Plain and Simple


On Wednesday, as most days, Fox News had five times as many viewers as CNN. That was the day Jeff Zucker was fired.

So far, the reasoning for his expulsion has been that he’d brought his mistress to CNN from NBC and kept promoting her. He did, all that’s true. But that had been going on since 2013. It wasn’t news to anyone inside CNN headquarters.

And Chris Cuomo? That didn’t help. Zucker was clearly covering for Chris and Andrew Cuomo on a lot of levels.

But Zucker had been portraayed recently as feeling very confident about his job since David Zaslav, a friend, the man who owns Discovery Networks, made a big to buy Warner Media from AT&T. Zaslav was going to protect Zucker said many media experts.

No one counted on one important problem while Zaslav’s deal was was going through. CNN has no ratings.

Since the 2020 election ended and took Donald Trump with it, CNN’s ratings have almost disappeared. Case in point: on Wednesday, the entire CNN evening menu of CNN Newsroom-Wolf Blitzer-Jake Tapper-Erin Burnett-Anderson Cooper-Don Lemon averaged about 600,000 viewers per hour. The numbers go up and down a little bit, but 600,000 is the baseline. In the morning, “New Day” hit at 480K. At 7pm, Burnett was the high water mark at 698,000.

And that’s it. CNN is a worldwide news organization that one is watching.

Adding insult to injury there’s Fox News. Reprehensible, purveyors of lies, dangerous, jaundiced, beneath tabloid journalism. Fox News. On Wednesday they had five times as many viewers. Five times. “The Five,” a group of jackals at 5pm, scored 3.8 million. Then came Bret Baier, probably inheritor of Chris Wallace’s Sunday show, with 2.8 million. Then comes Tucker Carlson-Sean Hannity- Laura Ingraham. They’re crazy and awful but they average 3.5 million viewers.

Ouch, right? And don’t forget, somewhere between them, but still far away from CNN, MSNBC comes in between 1 and 2 million. Rachel Maddow’s big ratings run when Trump was under fire is over and she knows it. She’s taking time off to make a movie. But the rest of the MSNBC gang– Ari Melber, Joy Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell– is still outdrawing CNN.

Today, the Wall Street Journal and some other outlets described Zucker as “beloved”  among the CNN staff. It seems hard to believe, but maybe he was. But he was also lazy. CNN has gone to the dogs. No one is watching it. If Zucker’s ratings had been competitive with anyone besides the Weather Channel or Nickelodeon Jr., it’s possible that his years- long open secret relationship wouldn’t have mattered. Without viewers, Zucker had no leverage.

Does CNN turn out a quality product? Absolutely, and it’s trusted around the world during a news crisis. But on a daily hour by hour basis? The clowns are winning.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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