CNN in crisis as viewers switch to partisan rivals

CNN, the pioneering 24-hour news channel, is considering an overhaul of its schedule after haemorrhaging viewers in its core US market.

The broadcaster, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of its launch by the media mogul Ted Turner on 1 June, has lost almost half its prime-time viewers in the past year, according to the latest figures.

Rupert Murdoch's right-wing alternative, Fox News, has galloped further ahead of CNN in the ratings, and is also threatening to undermine CNN's lead in the amount it can charge advertisers for access to its lucrative young, affluent viewers.

The poor ratings performance raises questions about the wisdom of CNN's strategy to position itself as a neutral and high-minded alternative to the politically partisan broadcasting of its rivals. In primetime, Fox News is home to the right-wingers Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, while MSNBC broadcasts shows from the liberal icons Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

"One of the few questions left about cable news is whether a channel attempting to build its brand around neutral reporting and balanced conversation can succeed," says Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Centre's centre for excellence in journalism, in its latest report on the industry. "The medium became noticeably more partisan in tone in 2009, adding ideological talk-show hosts to primetime and shedding dissenting voices."

CNN's most famous prime-time show, Larry King Live, lost 43 per cent of its viewers in the first three months of this year, compared to the first quarter of 2009, as the audience shrank from 1.34 million to 771,000. Other shows were down similar amounts. Fox News' most-watched show, The O'Reilly Factor, averages 3.65 million viewers.

On some nights in February, CNN fell to fifth place among cable news channels, eclipsed not just by Fox News and MSNBC but also by its sister network HLN, and by CNBC, the business channel which was broadcasting the Winter Olympics.

The channel boasts that it remains the go-to channel for breaking news, and reaches a wider audience over the course of a month than does any of its rivals, and points out it spends more on original reporting, too, especially internationally.

It is a position that has been undermined by the advent of the internet, says Ms Mitchell. "If cable news is no longer the first place people turn to for updates on breaking news, it must meet another need of the news consumer. The audience spikes the channel enjoyed during key moments in the 2008 presidential race were met with a reality in 2009: during the weeks of the shootings at Fort Hood and the earthquake in Haiti, CNN's coverage was not enough to keep Fox News out of first place."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...