OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The new head of CNN gave employees of the collapsing news outlet some bad news during his first day on the job.
Mark Thompson, CNN’s third CEO in less than two years, began his tenure with an introductory video during which he said the company is “nowhere near ready for the future” amid a significant and ongoing loss of viewers, according to network senior media reporter Oliver Darcy in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter.
Darcy went on to say that Thompson expressed optimism about the future of the outlet as well as reservations.
Following meetings with employees, Thompson said he was “heartened” that so many of them “still believe in CNN and its mission” and that “the world needs news it can trust more than ever.”
That said, he also noted that the company needed to find a way to adapt to a changing news environment in an era when people are watching TV less and less.
“I want to add that from now on we must be committed to presenting that news in whatever form, in whatever product, makes most sense for audiences today,” Thompson said, Darcy reported in his newsletter.
“Conventional TV will remain critical, but it can no longer define us,” he said. “It’s one platform in a growing portfolio of platforms.”
Regarding where he thinks CNN is currently at, Thompson said, “The truth is that despite some recent encouraging developments, like the launch of CNN Max, this company is still nowhere near ready for the future.”
“TV is vital … but TV is also too dominant at CNN and digital too marginal,” Thompson said, declaring that CNN’s digital products offered right now “lag well behind the current state of the art” and adding that he will seek to change that.
The Western Journal noted further:
While CNN is known for its left-wing partisan reporting and an editorial direction that heavily favors Democrats, Thompson said the company will report facts under his direction.
According to Darcy, Thompson would like to see CNN “follow the news wherever it leads us and no matter who it is going to upset.”
“Let’s cover political news proportionately and fairly, but not be frightened by our own shadows,” he said. “We do need to pick up the pace now if we want CNN to be one of the winners in this era of news.”
Clearly, Thompson has his work cut out for him. According to Mediaite in late September, CNN was well behind cable news powerhouse Fox News and even far-left MSNBC, the latter of which gained traction in the third quarter.
“While Fox marked its tenth consecutive quarter atop the industry and its top-rated show The Five landed its eighth consecutive quarter at number one, the network, along with CNN, did see hefty year-over-year declines,” the outlet reported, citing ratings figures.
“n total day viewers, Fox and CNN dropped 22 and 16 percent, respectively, while MSNBC gained 5 percent year over year for the quarter. In the key 25-54 age demographic, MSNBC was also up 5 percent while Fox and CNN declined 34 and 20 percent – respectively. MSNBC boasted of adding more viewers year over year in the third quarter of any other top 40 network with 38,000 more average viewers,” the left-leaning outlet continued.
By comparison, CNN hit a historic low in the third quarter, falling to 119,000 prime-time viewers on average in the key demo, while tanking to just 88,000 average viewers in the demo through the day, the network’s lowest numbers since the data became available in 1991.
The most recent time when CNN’s viewership numbers were about that low was in 2000, when the daytime average for the key demo was 89,000.
MSNBC, meanwhile, also notched around 88,000 in the demographic for the third quarter during the day, the same as CNN, in spite of a 813,000 to 471,000 lead in total viewers. “CNN beat MSNBC in the total day demo in September with 85,000 viewers to 84,000. In the prime time demo, MSNBC only led CNN by 10,000 viewers with 129,000 viewers in the quarter,” Mediaite reported.