CNN Q2 2020 Ratings: CNN Averages Largest Audience for a Quarter in Its 40-Year History

By A.J. Katz Comment

When you mix seismic global events like a pandemic, worldwide protests against police brutality, a president who’s constantly making news, not to mention a president who’s constantly making news during a presidential campaign, you get cable news gold.

The second quarter of 2020 ended on Sunday, and CNN, which seems to benefit from these major breaking news events more than its competitors, has officially earned its most-watched quarter in the network’s 40-year history—in both total day and prime-time viewership.

In Q2 2020, CNN averaged 1.81 million total viewers in prime time and 1.19 million viewers in total day. That’s a larger average audience for a quarter than during the 9/11 era, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, previous presidential elections, any of those time periods.

We’re certainly living in extraordinary times.

Americans flocked to CNN this spring during dayside. Not only did the network draw more adults 25-54 than its cable news competition during the late-morning, midday and afternoon hours, but its 9 a.m.-4 p.m. programming averaged more adults 25-54 than any other network on cable television.

As one might have guessed, CNN showed more improvement than the competition. Compared to Q2 2019, the network was +137% in total prime-time viewers, +181% in the prime-time demo, +120% in total day viewers and 150% in the total day demo.

CNN posted double-digit audience growth from Q1 of this year. The network was +27% in total prime-time viewers, +23% in the prime-time demo, +32% in total day viewers and also +32% in the total day demo.

However, the network did finish No. 3 in average total prime-time viewers for Q2 behind both Fox News and MSNBC, and finished behind Fox News in the key demo during prime time and total day (though it gave FNC a run for its money in the total day demo).

Here are CNN’s ratings for Q2 of 2020:

  • Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,806,000 total viewers / 528,000 A25-54
  • Total day (Mon-Sun): 1,188,000 total viewers / 335,000 A25-54

On the programming front, each CNN prime-time offering, Anderson Cooper 360, Cuomo Prime Time, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, averaged its largest audience for a quarter in the program’s history.

Cooper averaged a largest total audience and more adults 25-54 than his MSNBC competition, while Cuomo and Lemon averaged more A25-54 viewers than their MSNBC time slot competition.

The Lead with Jake Tapper was the top-rated 4 p.m. cable news show this quarter among adults 25-54, marking the first time The Lead has finished No. 1 in a quarter since the program’s launch in 2013.

The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett Outfront each delivered its largest quarterly audiences on record.

Below is CNN’s ratings press release, which includes both Q2 and June 2020:

 2Q IS MOST-WATCHED QUARTER IN CNN’S 40 YEAR HISTORY

EVERY PRIME TIME PROGRAM POSTS BEST QUARTER EVER

CNN is #1 in ALL of Cable During Dayside

CNN Beats MSNBC for:
25th Consecutive Quarter in Total Day;
31st Straight Quarter in Dayside;
2nd Consecutive Quarter in Prime Time among Adults 25-54

Network Audience Grows Triple-Digits Over Last Year

CNN also Has Best Month of June Ever

The second quarter of 2020 was CNN’s most-watched quarter ever.

CNN had record viewership in both total day and prime time, among total viewers, the biggest audience in CNN’s 40-year history. Every CNN prime time program also hit historic audience levels, each program posting its best quarterly ratings ever. During dayside, CNN was #1 in ALL of cable (not just news) for the quarter among adults 25-54. Viewers flocked to CNN for the latest news and information, with the network’s audience growing triple digits this quarter, compared to last year, far greater growth than of its competitors.

CNN’s digital platforms also had their best quarter ever, making CNN the most watched and most used news and information brand in the world.

In total day, CNN had its best quarter in history among total viewers, averaging 1.194 million. In the key demographic of adults 25-54, CNN outperformed MSNBC (337k vs. 197k) for the 25th straight quarter, the longest quarterly streak since 2Q 2010. Compared to a year ago, CNN grew far more than Fox or MSNBC in total viewers, increasing its audience by +119%, while Fox was up +48% and MSNBC was +34%. In the key demo adults 25-54, CNN was up an impressive +150% to Fox’s +61% to MSNBC’s +46% in total day vs. last year. 2Q 2020 also marked the smallest gap between CNN and Fox (-9%) since 4Q 2008 and the largest advantage vs. MSNBC (+71%) since 4Q 2015 in the demo.

CNN had its most-watched prime time in history as well this quarter, averaging 1.824 million total viewers in M-Su prime and 1.949 million in M-F prime time. Among adults 25-54, CNN outperformed MSNBC in M-Su prime time (533k vs. 327k) and in weekday prime (573k vs. 391k), for the second consecutive quarter. In M-Su prime time, CNN grew much more than the others, increasing +133% in total viewers and +175% among adults 25-54, compared to Fox’s +48%/+65% and MSNBC’s +19%/+25%. In weekday prime time, CNN’s growth was also significant, up +120% in total viewers and +159% among 25-54. MSNBC’s marquee M-F prime time programs were up far less this quarter increasing only +14% in total viewers and +17% in the demo adults 25-54; Fox was up +44%/+58% respectively. In M-Su prime, this was CNN’s smallest gap with Fox (-17%) since 3Q 2017 and largest advantage over MSNBC (+63%) since 1Q 2016 in the demo and in M-F prime, this is CNN’s narrowest gap with Fox (-21%) since 3Q 2016 and largest advantage over MSNBC (+47%) since 1Q 2016.

During dayside (9a-4p), CNN was #1 in all of cable this quarter (not just news), and for the first time in cable news in 19 years among adults 25-54. Compared to cable news, CNN was most watched for the first time since 4Q 2001, averaging 382k, Fox followed with 359k, and MSNBC had 210k in the demo. CNN has now surpassed MSNBC for the 31ststraight quarter among 25-54 during dayside. In total viewers, CNN averaged 1.389 million, the network’s second highest dayside delivery on record (after 1Q 1995). CNN also beat MSNBC in total viewers this quarter (1.389 million vs. MSNBC’s 1.331 million) for the first time since 2Q 2017. Compared to a year ago, CNN is up +124% in total viewers and +179% in adults 25-54. Fox was up +42%/+59% and MSNBC, now ranked third in dayside among total viewers and the demo, was up +52%/+94% respectively.

On weekends, CNN was #1 in cable news in total day (CNN 300k to Fox’s 293k to MSNBC’s 130k) and tied Fox for #1 in prime time (434k/434k/166k) among adults 25-54 this quarter, growing triple digits, more than Fox and MSNBC. CNN also surpassed MSNBC on weekends among total viewers in total day (1.114 million vs. MSNBC’s 778k) and prime time (1.512 million vs. MSNBC’s 972k) and delivered higher demo audiences than MSNBC for all 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

Among ALL cable networks (not just news), CNN ranked #1 in dayside in the demo and #3 in total day and prime time in total viewers this quarter. CNN continues to have the youngest audience in cable news in total day and prime. Additionally, CNN reaches the largest average monthly cumulative TV audience (among both total viewers and adults 25-54) of any cable news network 2020 to-date. Across platforms, CNN reaches more total people than any other cable news brand across TV and digital and more people ages 25-54 than any other news brand across TV and digital.

Second Quarter 2020 News Program Highlights:

• New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman (6-9a)
o Had highest total viewers quarterly delivery on record (674k)
o Grew +47% in total viewers and +37% among adults 25-54, most growth in cable news vs. a year ago.

• The Lead with Jake Tapper (4p) ranked #1 in cable news this quarter among adults 25-54 for the first time since the program’s launch in 2013 with 428k, to Fox’s 389k to MSNBC’s 277k. (The Lead tied Fox in 3Q-18).
o Had highest quarterly delivery on record among both total viewers (1.610 million) and adults 25-54 (428k).
o Up +130% in total viewers and + 183% among adults 25-54, most growth in cable news compared to last year.

• Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (5p) ranked #2 in its hour among adults 25-54, ahead of MSNBC for the 24th consecutive quarter (465k vs. MSNBC’s 251k).
o Had highest quarterly total viewer (1.744 million) and 25-54 (465k) delivery on record.
o Grew +132% in total viewers and +187% in the demo adults 25-54, most the cable news.
• Situation Room (6p) topped MSNBC among adults 25-54 (493k vs. MSNBC’s 268k) and has been ahead for 23 of the past 24 quarters. (Note: Sit Room tied MSNBC in 4Q-19).
o Had highest quarterly total viewers (1.675 million) and 25-54 (493k) delivery on record.
o Up 150% in total viewers, +193% among adults 25-54, the most growth in cable news vs. last year.

• Erin Burnett Outfront (7p) topped MSNBC in total viewers (1.710 million vs. 1.611 million for the first time since 2Q-13. EBOF ranked #2 in its hour among adults 25-54 ahead of MSNBC for the 8th consecutive quarter (516k vs. MSNBC’s 261k).
o Had highest quarterly delivery in total viewers (1.710 million) and adults 25-54 (516k) on record.
o Had the highest growth in cable news in the 7p time period among both total viewers (+135%) and among adults 25-54 (+177%) vs. year ago.

• Anderson Cooper 360 (8p) outperformed MSNBC’s All In in total viewers (2.002 million vs. MSNBC’s 1.946 million). The Cooper-led program also surpassed MSNBC in the demo 25-54 (584k vs. 310k), ahead of MSNBC for the 2nd consecutive quarter .
o Had highest quarterly total viewers (2.002 million) and adults 25-54 (584k) on record; highest 8pm time period quarterly delivery on record.
o Had the highest growth in cable news in the 8p time period among total viewers (+124%) and adults 25-54 (173%) vs. year ago.

• Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo (9p) surpassed MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show for the first time during a quarter (635k vs. MSNBC’s 515k), and for the first time since 4Q-15 among adults 25-54 during the overall network 9p time period.
o Had highest quarterly total viewers (2.210 million) and 25-54 (635k) delivery on record; highest 9p time period quarterly delivery on record.
o Had the highest growth of any weekday cable news prime program vs. year ago among both total viewers (+136% to Fox’s +36% to MSNBC’s +21%) and among 25-54 (+176% to Fox’s +48% to MSNBC’s +25%).
o Delivered CNN’s highest viewership in 2Q-20 among total viewers (2.210 million) and 25-54 (635k).

• CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10p) beat MSNBC’s The Last Word in the key demo adults 25-54 (596k vs. MSNBC’s 355k) for the 2nd consecutive quarter.
o Had highest quarterly total viewer delivery (1 .851 million) and 25-54 audience (596k) on record.
o Had the highest growth in cable news in the 10p time period among total viewers (+122%) and adults 25-54 (175%) vs. year ago.
• CNN Tonight (11pm) ranked #1 in cable news among 25-54 with 454k, to Fox’s 446k to MSNBC’s 322k.

Brooke Baldwin, John Berman, Victor Blackwell, Wolf Blitzer, Kate Bolduan, Ana Cabrera, Anderson Cooper, Poppy Harlow, Erica Hill, Brianna Keilar, John King, Christi Paul, Jim Sciutto, Boris Sanchez, Bianna Golodryga, Amara Walker, Martin Savidge and Fredricka Whitfield all contributed to CNN Newsroom during dayside and/or weekend coverage this quarter.

Weekend Program Highlights

• On weekends, CNN ranked #1 on Saturdays, every hour from 11a-8p and every hour from 11p-5a. On Sundays, the network was top-rated every hour in the 12p and 1p hours and every hour from 3p-5a among adults 25-54.
• New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell ranked #2 in cable news in total viewers and in the demo adults 25-54 during respective time periods on Saturdays and Sundays this quarter, growing double digits vs. a year ago.
• Smerconish (Sat. 9a) ranked #2 across cable news among both total viewers (1.086 million) and adults 25-54 (269k) growing the most in cable news during the time period up+64% in total viewers and +72% in the demo 25-54 from a year ago.
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer aired weekends throughout the quarter and ranked #1 in the 7p hour on both Saturdays and Sundays among adults 25-54.
• Inside Politics with John King (Sun. 8a) topped MSNBC in both total viewers (922k vs. 660k) and in the demo 25-54 (225k vs. 109k). The King led program was also up the most in cable news in its time period, increased +77% in total viewers and +88% in the demo from last year.
• State of the Union with Jake Tapper (Sun 9a) outperformed MSNBC in total viewers (1.203 million vs. 722k) and in the demo (301k vs. 121k). The Tapper led program was also up the most in cable during the time period, growing +87% in total viewers and +99% in the demo 25-54.
• Fareed Zakaria GPS (Sun 10a) also surpassed MSNBC on Sunday mornings in total viewers (1.353 million vs. 1.016 million), while growing the most in cable news, up +82% compared a year ago. In the key demo, the Zakaria led program averaged 306k to MSNBC’s 182k, up the most in the demo as well +100%.
• Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (Sun 11a) grew significantly this quarter, up triple digits in both total viewers (+108%) and the demo (+135%). For the quarter, the media program averaged 1.366 million total viewers, ahead of MSNBC’s 1.138 million and among adults 25-54, the program registered 326k compared to MSNBC’s 201k.

CNN Special Programming During 2Q 2020

CNN aired several hours of special programming and Town Halls this quarter, ranking #1 or #2 in their respective time periods in the demo:

• CNN’s global Town Halls, Coronavirus: Facts and Fears, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with health experts, CNN correspondents from around the world and others, have become essential programming since the first one aired on March 5th. The Town Halls continue to have robust interest among viewers, averaging 1.719 million total viewers and 466k in the demo adults 25-54 over 15 episodes.
• CNN and Sesame Street joined together to air three Town Hall specials for parents and kids on Saturday mornings this quarter. Two of them, The ABC’s of COVID-19 (aired 4/25 and 6/13), were hosted by CNN’s Erica Hill, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Sesame Street’s Big Bird and the third, Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism (6/6) was with CNN Political commentator Van Jones, Erica Hill and Big Bird. The Town Halls, which provided information about the coronavirus pandemic and help kids and families discuss racism and the nationwide protests, averaged 297k in the demo and 893k in total viewers, ranking #2 in cable news.
• On Sunday 6/14, Laura Coates hosted a CNN Town Hall: Mayors Who Matter, and was joined by four African American female leaders to discuss how their cities are responding to the unique challenges resulting from the spread of Covid-19 and the nationwide protests on racial injustice. The Town Hall ranked #1 in cable news in its time period among adults 25-54 (381k). Following the special, CNN Special Report: Bats & The Mystery Behind Covid-19 hosted by Anderson Cooper also ranked #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 (350k).
• The CNN Special Reports The Pandemic and the President (5/3) and Trump and the Law after Impeachment (6/28), anchored by Jake Tapper ranked #1 in cable news, averaging 400k among adults 25-54 and 1.954 among total viewers, and 346k adults 25-54 and 1.647 million total viewers respectively this quarter.
• On 5/31 CNN’s special I Can’t Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America anchored by Don Lemon ranked #1 in the demo adults 25-54 with 1.164 million. Earlier that morning, Jake Tapper hosted a special tribute We Remember: A National Memorial Honoring the Victims of Covid-19 to honor those lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Don Lemon and Van Jones hosted two editions of The Color of Covid (airing on 4/18 and 5/15); both specials ranked #2 in the demo 25-54 (347k and 345k respectively), far ahead of MSNBC in their respective time periods. On 6/7, CNN’s special Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism hosted by Fredricka Whitfield ranked #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 (398k).
• China’s Deadly Secret – A Fareed Zakaria Special (5/24) investigation about what China knew and when as COVID-19 raced around the world ranked #1 in cable news, averaging 1.638 million in total viewers and 335k in the demo.
• On 4/25, CNN’s Chief Climate correspondent Bill Weir reported a 90 minute special The Road to Change: America’s Climate Crisis, which ranked #2 in its time period among both total viewers (1.036 million) and adults 25-54 (265k).

CNN Films

• CNN Films: Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer (5/17/20, 10pm-12am) premiered at #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 and total viewers. In the key demographic adults 25-54, the film attracted 223k, +182% more than MSNBC’s 79k and +21% more than Fox’s 185k. In total viewers, Scandalous averaged 1.201 million total viewers, +12% above Fox and +141% ahead of MSNBC in the time period based on Live+7 data.

Digital-to-TV Lift
• CNN Digital viewing added a 1.6% lift (or 19k) to CNN’s P2+ 1.194 million total day TV audience for a total of 1.213 million across platforms this quarter.

Out of Home Lift
• 2020 to date (through 6/7/20), CNN is averaging a +6.4% lift (or +19k) among adults 25-54 OOH viewers and a +4.4% or (or +46k) among total viewers for a total of 319k and 1.100 million, combined in-home and OOH adults 25-54 and total viewers respectively.

June Monthly Program Highlights:

CNN had its best June in history in total day and prime time among both total viewers and adults 25-54. Key CNN programs had their best June in history:
• In total day, CNN had its best June in history in total viewers (1.146 million) and adults 25-54 (327k). CNN also beat MSNBC in the demo 25-54 (327k vs. 194k) for the seventh straight month, growing the most in cable news up +157% from a year ago. CNN was up +115% in total viewers.
• In prime time, CNN had its best June in history in total viewers and the demo. In M-Su prime CNN averaged 1.868 million total viewers and 560k among 25-54 and M-F prime time, registered 2.033 million total viewers and 624k among 25-54. CNN also surpassed MSNBC in prime time by wide margins this month: M-Su prime time (560k vs. MSNBC’s 330k) and M-F prime time (624k vs. MSNBC’s 397k). Among total viewers/adults 25-54, CNN is up +141%/199%, to Fox’s +50% /+81% to MSNBC’s +19%/+25%. Respectively. And, in weekday prime, CNN grew +135%/+200, while Fox was up +45%/+73% and MSNBC increased marginally with +14%/+16% compared to last year.
• In day time, CNN was #1 in all of cable (not just news) in June, for the third consecutive month in adults 25-54. The network easily topped Fox (351k vs. 296k) and MSNBC among adults 25-54 (351k vs. 198k). CNN is up +113% in total viewers and +185% in the demo vs. last year.
• On weekends, CNN beat MSNBC for 24 out of 24 hours on both Saturdays and Sundays among 25-54.
• New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman had its highest June on record in total viewers (666k) and second highest in the demo (170k). The program was up the most in morning cable news, growing +50% in total viewers and +57% in the demo 25-54.
• Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett (5-6a) ranked #2 in the demo this month ahead of MSNBC by double digits (+37%), growing +4% in the demo and +34% among total viewers vs. year ago.
• The Lead with Jake Tapper ranked #1 in cable among adults 25-54 (416k) ahead of Fox (313k) and MSNBC (260k). The Lead was up +130% in total viewers and +204% in the demo compared to last June. The Tapper led program also had it best June on record in total viewers (1.522 million) and the demo 416k.
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer had its best June on record at both 5p and 6p in total viewers (1.607 million/1.549 million) and in the demo (439k/461k). Sit Room ranked #2 in cable news at 5p (439k vs. MSNBC’s 242k) and #1 in cable news at 6p with 461k to Fox’s 459k to MSNBC’s 257k in the key demo 25-54. The Blitzer-led program grew vs. last year — at 5p up +121% in total viewers, +205% in the demo and at 6p +142%/209%.
• Erin Burnett Outfront ranked #1 in cable news at 7p in the key demo 25-54 for the first time since January 2019. The Burnett-led program also had its best June on record in total viewers (1.720 million) and in the demo (523k). EBOF was up +142%/+201% vs. a year ago June.
• AC360 at 8pm outperformed MSNBC in both total viewers (2.128 million vs. 1.987 million) and by wide margins in the demo (642k vs. 316k) this month. This was the program’s highest June on record in both total viewers and the demo. AC 360 had the highest growth of any M-F cable news prime time program vs. a year ago in both total viewers (+143%) and adults 25-54 (+215%).
• Cuomo Prime Time beat The Rachel Maddow Show at 9p for the third consecutive month in the demo adults 25-54 (658k vs. 505k). This is the program’s and the overall network’s best 9pm June delivery in history in both total viewers (2.209 million) and among 25-54 (658k). The Cuomo-led program had the highest growth in cable news at 9pm in both total viewers (+138%) and the demo (+196%) vs last June. CPT is CNN’s highest rated news program in both demos in June.
• CNN Tonight with Don Lemon surpassed MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell for the 4th consecutive month in the demo adults 25-54 (628k vs. 369k). The Lemon-led program had its highest June on record in both total viewers (1.894 million) and the demo (628k). CNN Tonight had the most growth in cable news at 10pm in total viewers (+125%) and in the demo (+193%). CNN Tonight at 11pm was No. 1 in cable news averaging 502k to Fox’s 470k to MSNBC’s 332k.
• On Sundays, Inside Politics with John King (8a), State of The Union with Jake Tapper (9a), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10a) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11a) all topped MSNBC, ranking #2 in cable news in their respective time periods and growing double to triple digits vs. last year.

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