President Trump’s press conference on Thursday pulled no verbal punches when it came to the media, but it was probably CNN which got hit the hardest. Shortly after the conference ended, Variety ran a story in which CNN president Jeff Zucker assured everyone that the network is fine:
President Trump’s steady stream of attacks on CNN’s credibility has not hurt the news organization’s reputation in the minds of consumers, nor has it scared away any advertisers. That was the word from CNN president Jeff Zucker and top Turner execs Thursday at a state-of-the-company luncheon presentation in Manhattan.
Zucker said CNN conducted its largest-ever brand survey last month out of a desire to gauge whether Trump’s broadsides about CNN serving up “fake news” were having a lasting impact on prospective viewers.
“There has been no diminution whatsoever in the CNN brand,” Zucker said. “It’s as strong as it’s ever been. It’s incredibly trusted and we see no impact whatsoever in all of those attacks on the CNN brand.”
So, according to a CNN survey, CNN is just fine.
A variation on that theme was written up in The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.
CNN was cratering in the ratings in 2012 when Zucker was brought on board, and it had a well-known critic even back then, as reported in this Politico piece:
The bad news just keeps coming for CNN, and it couldn’t be happening at a worse time.
Just one day after Donald Trump criticized the network’s low ratings during a highly contentious interview with host Wolf Blitzer, CNN has registered its worst monthly primetime ratings in over 20 years.
An average of 389,000 viewers watched CNN primetime between April 30 and May 27, a 51 percent drop from May 2011. By comparison, Fox News averaged 1,692,000 total viewers (a 9 percent drop), while MSNBC averaged 674,000 total viewers (a 19 percent drop).
When Zucker took over at CNN, he had some clear goals about what he wanted to accomplish at the floundering network. CNN reported on those goals shortly after the announcement of Zucker’s hiring:
Jeff Zucker wants to inject more “passion” into CNN. He wants to help the network “broaden the definition of what news is.” And he wants to beat Fox News Channel and MSNBC in the ratings.
CNN’s nemesis was Zucker’s champion at the time:
.@CNN is looking at Jeff Zucker to lead them out of the forest–Jeff would be a great choice.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2012
CNN’s brand may be all right now, but the ratings aren’t.
In the most recent Adweek/TVNewser report on cable ratings, CNN does well in total day viewership, but doesn’t even crack the top five during prime time:
CNN ranked No. 4 in total day viewers, and No. 9 in total prime time viewers this past week. The network posted a -4 percent prime time viewer decline from the same week last year, but put up a solid +31 percent bump in total day
MSNBC defeated CNN in total prime time viewers (No. 5), but finished behind in total day (No. 7). The network posted +71 percent year-over-year prime time viewer growth this past week, and +56 percent growth in total day.
While there is a kernel of good news in there for CNN, MSNBC still had stronger growth over the previous year and finished well ahead of CNN during prime time.
Fox News more than doubled CNN’s total day numbers with 1,759,000 viewers, while experiencing a healthy percentage bump of its own (28%) over the previous year.
President Trump’s attacks on CNN may not be hurting the network with advertisers, but its coverage of him isn’t helping to achieve Zucker’s ultimate goal: beating Fox News and MSNBC.