April 2021 Ratings: CNN Sheds Chunk of Prime Time Audience, But Chauvin Murder Trial Coverage Attracts Total Day Demo

By A.J. Katz 

For CNN, April 2021 will end up being a  “good news, bad news” month. The bad news is CNN struggled in prime time, shedding a fair chunk of its audience from March (and as expected, losing viewers from April 2020). Compared to the prior month (March 2021), CNN fell -15% in average total prime time viewers, and fell -5% in the prime time demo.

The year-over-year trend is worse, as you might have guessed. CNN dropped -47% in total prime time viewers, -52% in the prime time demo, -42% in total day viewers and -48% in the total day demo.

Wall-to-wall coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, including live coverage of the White House coronavirus task force briefings most everyday in April 2020 brought CNN its largest average adults 25-54 audience since September 2005. Needless to say, there was bound to be a big year-over-year drop, and as you’ll see in forthcoming posts, CNN isn’t the only network losing traction from 2020.


The story wasn’t quite as dire in total day and dayside hours. Yes, CNN also shed -3% in total day viewers from March, however it grew an impressive +7% in the total day demo. It was also the top-rated network on all of cable for the month during the 9 a.m.-4 p.m. dayside daypart. This month-to-month growth in non-prime time hours among younger/more casual news viewers can directly be attributed to wall-to-wall coverage of the Derek Chauvin murder trial in April.

CNN finished third on cable news in total viewers, and second among adults 25-54 for the month of April. It was edged by Fox News in the total day demo by just +9,000 viewers.

The average Nielsen live + same day impressions for April 2021:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,030,000 total viewers / 276,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 786,000 total viewers / 205,000 A25-54

The Lead with Jake Tapper was the top-rated cable news show in the 4 p.m. hour among adults 25-54, while Erin Burnett Outfront won the 7 p.m. hour in the demo.

Most of CNN’s daytime news shows won their respective hours among adults 25-54, with a boost from daytime murder trial coverage, and Jim Acosta got off to a good start on weekends, winning his new 3-6 p.m. ET time period among adults 25-54.

Here’s CNN press release, where it highlights its performance in the 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daypart:



CNN Beats MSNBC in Total Day, Key Programming Hours, Weekends and Sunday Mornings


The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett Outfront are #1 in Cable News


Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon Surpass MSNBC


 CNN’s Newest Weekend Anchors Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown Rank #1


Year-to-Date CNN is Up, While Fox is Still Down


With the Nielsen month ending on Sunday (4/25), CNN ranked #1 in all of cable (not just news) during Dayside in the key demo adults 25-54 in April.  The network also surpassed MSNBC in Total Day, throughout key program hours, weekends and on Sunday mornings among adults 25-54 this month.  While all the cable news networks are down vs. a year ago due to increased viewership during the coronavirus pandemic outbreak last April, CNN still had its third highest April ratings among total viewers since 1995 (behind 2020 and 2003). And Year-to-Date, CNN is up across the board, while Fox is down. CNN continues to have the youngest audience in cable news in Total Day and prime time and reached the largest cumulative TV audience among both total viewers and adults 25-54 this month.  CNN’s digital platforms are also having record numbers, making CNN the most watched and most used news and information brand in the world.





  • During Dayside (9am-4pm), CNN ranked #1 in all of cable (not just news) in April averaging 270k among adults 25-54. This is the sixth straight month that CNN has been #1 in all of cable among 25-54.  April was CNN’s third highest in total viewers (1.023 million) and adults 25-54 (270k) during dayside since 1995 (just following 2003 and 2020).


  • In Total Day, CNN once again surpassed MSNBC in the key demo adults 25-54 (206k vs. MSNBC’s 140k) this month.  CNN has now topped MSNBC for 17 straight months in Total Day demo 25-54, the longest streak since Jan-10.  This was the network’s third highest April among total viewers (790k) during Total Day since 1995 (behind 2020 and 2003).


  • In weekday Prime Time (M-F), CNN had its most-watched April audience in total viewers (1.193 million) in 18 years (since 2003, behind 2020 and 2016).


  • On Weekends, CNN topped MSNBC among adults 25-54 in Total Day (138k vs. 71k) and prime time (160k vs. MSNBC’s 63k) and among total viewers (Total Day 622k vs.486k/Prime Time 690k vs. 443k). All of CNN’s Sunday morning public affairs programs topped MSNBC in the demo adults 25-54 in April.  CNN’s newest weekend anchors Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown were both #1 among adults 25-54 during in their respective time periods – outperforming both Fox and MSNBC.  CNN beat MSNBC for all 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays in adults 25-54.




  • During the 8-9am hour, New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman beat MSNBC’s Morning Joe (165k vs. 157k) in the key demo adults 25-54.  (The program became New Day with John Berman and Brianna Keilar on April 19th.) Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett (5-6am) ranked #2 among adults 25-54 in April, ahead of MSNBC by 25%.
  • The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) ranked #1 in cable news in April among adults 25-54, easily outperforming MSNBC and Fox.  The Tapper-led program averaged 359k, Fox’s Your World followed with 222k and MSNBC’s Deadline: White House was third with 206k. The Lead has now ranked #1 for six months and has topped MSNBC for 14 months.  In total viewers, the program averaged 1.346 million, outperforming Fox by 8% (1.247 million).  This was The Lead’s second highest April on record in both demos (just behind 2020). The Lead is also CNN’s highest rated show in April 2021 among total viewers (1.346 million).
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer beat MSNBC at 5pm (373k vs. 227k) in the key demo adults 25-54 in April.  The Blitzer-led hour has now topped MSNBC for the 35th consecutive month.  This was the Sit Room’s second highest April on record in total viewers (1.336 million) and in the demo (373k), and is also the network’s highest rated show among adults 25-54 (373k). At 6pm, Sit Room ranked #1 in cable news in the key sales demo 25-54 (312k vs. Fox’s 301k vs. MSNBC’s 213k) and had its second highest April in total viewers (1.069 million, following 2020).
  • Erin Burnett Outfront  (7pm) ranked #1 in cable news in April with 323k, Fox followed with 279k and MSNBC’s ReidOut averaged 238k in the key demo adults 25-54.  EBOF has been #1 now for the fifth consecutive month.  This is the Burnett-led program’s second highest April on record in total viewers (1.163 million, behind 2020).
  • Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) easily surpassed All in With Chris Hayes this month (330k vs. 239k), now beating MSNBC the 16th consecutive month in the demo 25-54.  This was AC 360’s second highest April on record in total viewers (1.228 million, behind 2020).
  • Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo (9pm) had its second highest April delivery on record among total viewers (1.327 million) and in the demo (343k).
  • CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) surpassed MSNBC’s Last Word this month (317k vs. 250k), ranking #2 in cable news.  This was the Lemon-led program’s third highest April on record in total viewers (1.066 million, just following 2020 and 2018).



All of CNN’s programs during the day ranked #1 in cable news in April surpassing Fox and MSNBC in the key demo adults 25-54 including:  CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto (10am) averaged 244k, Fox’s American Newsroom was second (228k) and MSNBC lagged with 130k. CNN Newsroom with Kate Bolduan (11am) was most watched with 267k, Fox followed with 214k and MSNBC was third with 141k.   Inside Politics with John King dominated at noon with 282k, Fox was next with 229k and MSNBC trailed with 155k.  CNN Newsroom at 1pm had 288k to Fox’s 220k to MSNBC’s 144k (the program became CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera on April 12th) and CNN Newsroom was also #1 at 2pm with 285k to Fox’s 201k to MSNBC’s 149k and at 3pm with 314k/199k/147k (the program became CNN Newsroom with Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell on April 19th).  CNN was also #1 in cable news in total viewers at 3pm (1.230 million).





CNN’s newest weekend anchors Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown have been in place for the full month of April and rank #1 in their respective time periods.  On Saturdays, CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta (3-6pm) is #1 in the demo at 3pm (167k), Fox follows with 116k and MSNBC had 93k.  At 4pm, the Acosta-led program was #1 in both total viewers (747k) and the demo (165k) as well as during the 5pm hour (843k/180k); Fox trails and MSNBC ranks #3.  From 6-9pm, the Brown-led program was #1 in the demo topping both Fox and MSNBC and #2 in total viewers.  At 8pm, CNN Newsroom with Pamela Brown outperformed MSNBC in both total viewers (682k vs. 505k) and the demo (145k vs.71k).  On Sunday’s, CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta (4-6pm) and Pamela Brown (6-9pm) was either #1 or #2 in total viewers and/or the demo during the respective time periods.


New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell easily surpassed MSNBC to rank #2 in cable news in the key demo adults 25-54 on Saturday from 7-9am and on Sunday from 6-8am (The program became New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Boris Sanchez on April 11th.)  CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield ranked either #1 or #2 in cable news in total viewers and/or adults 25-54 during its respective time periods on Saturdays and Sundays.


On Sunday mornings, all CNN programs easily outperformed MSNBC in April.  Inside Politics with Abby Phillip (8am) topped MSNBC in the demo (118k vs. 69k).  State of the Union with Jake Tapper/Dana Bash (9am), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10am) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11am) all ranked #2 in cable news in their respective time periods, topping MSNBC in both total viewers and among the 25-54 demo.  SOTU with Jake Tapper/Dana Bash at noon was #1 in cable news in the demo with 161k, Fox followed with 151k and MSNBC lagged with 86k, the program also surpassed MSNBC in total viewers (875k vs. 657k).  Fareed Zakaria GPS at 1pm also ranked #1 in the demo and #2 in total viewers.



Of note:  All CNN, MSNBC and Fox dayparts and programs are down vs. last year due to increased viewership during the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, April 2020.



Original Series Highlights

  • CNN’s most recent Original Series The People v. the Klan ranked #1 in cable news in its time period averaging 233k among adults 25-54 and 63k in younger viewers (18-34). The four-part series ranked #2 in total viewers with 1.154 million.  The People v. the Klan outperformed MSNBC by triple digits in all demos and topped Fox by double digits among 25-54. So far this year (thru 4/25), People v. the Klan ranks #3 among Society & Culture non-fiction series in All of Cable among adults 25-54.



Special Programming Highlights


  • CNN Special Report: The Truth About Vaccines (4/10/21, 9-10pm) reported by Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, delivered 121k among adults 25-54 and 659k among total viewers, ranking #2 in cable news among both demos for the time period.
  • CNN Town Hall: The Climate Crisis (4/23/21, 10pm-11pm) with special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, moderated by Dana Bash, delivered 123k among adults 25-54 and 496k total viewers.





Since the beginning of 2021, CNN is up across all days parts vs last year, while Fox is the only cable news network to decline by double digits compared to a year ago:





Median Age

  • In April 2021, CNN’s TV audience is four years younger than Fox and MSNBC in Total Day. In M-Su prime, CNN’s audience is six years younger than both Fox and MSNBC. Both FNC and MSNBC are pacing at their oldest yearly median age on record.


Cable News TV Reach
CNN continues to reach the largest cumulative TV audience of any cable news network so far this year, making this the 20th consecutive year on record for the network.


Multiplatform Reach:

2021-to-date CNN reaches more people in the US than any other cable news brand across TV and digital among total viewers, adults 25-54 and adults 18-34.

Note that Comscore Xmedia data is delivered on a delayed schedule and therefore the above reflects Jan-Feb 2021.


Out of Home TV Lift:

So far in 2021, CNN is averaging a +6.5% lift (or +20k) in Total Day among Adults 25-54 with OOH viewers and a +4.5% lift (or +54k) in Total Day among Total Viewers.



Digital to TV Lift:

CNN Digital viewing added a 2.5% lift (or +16k) to CNN’s P2+ TV audience in April.