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CNN Prime-Time Ratings Lag Behind Hallmark, Channel Running Westerns

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post had some fun with the weekly ratings report, underlining just how badly CNN did in the last week. Despite the attention around the Iowa caucus, CNN came in 10th most-watched channel on cable, getting beat by Hallmark, The History Channel and INSP, a South Carolina-based channel founded in the late 1970s by the Christian televangelist Jim Bakker that now runs mostly Westerns.

CNN had an average of 538,000 nightly viewers in the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. block during the seven-day period from Jan. 15 until Jan. 21, according to Nielsen. The cowboy shows on INSP had 577,000 viewers in the same time frame. 

Ariel Zilber pointed out “Fox News, whose parent company Fox Corp. is the corporate sister of The Post’s owner News Corp., topped all networks with an audience of 2.091 million in prime time, according to Nielsen.” ESPN came in second, thanks in part to airing the playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. MSNBC was third with 1 million viewers in prime time.

This is why new CNN boss Mark Thompson has been all about boosting CNN’s online presence. In a memo circulated to staffers last week, Thompson bluntly warned of the demise of linear television. He warned CNN “has been slow to respond to the challenge” of dwindling audiences. 

“We need to recapture some of the swagger and innovation of the early CNN,” Thompson wrote in the memo. “Like so many other news players with a broadcast heritage, CNN’s linear services and even its website can sometimes have an old-fashioned and unadventurous feel as if the world has changed and they haven’t.”

CNN is stuck far behind Fox and MSNBC, and now it loses to cowboy-show reruns. That’s their recent history. How do you like them “Facts First” apples? 

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