February ’22 Ratings: CNN Remains Down From Last Year, But Moves Into Top 10 Among Adults 25-54

By A.J. Katz 

CNN had a bizarre February. It started with the head of the network, Jeff Zucker resigning, and it ended with the appointment of his permanent replacement, Chris Licht. The network struggled for most of the month in regard to Nielsen ratings, but finished with impressive viewer gains thanks to its global breaking news coverage surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in earnest late last week.

CNN finished among basic cable’s top ten, not in total day viewers (No. 4) but also among adults 25-54 in total day (No. 9) and primetime (No. 10) in February. The network finished No. 11 in average total primetime viewers.

CNN managed to beat rival MSNBC on weekends and among adults 25-54, both in total day and in primetime. Thanks to big ratings for Ukraine crisis coverage in the month’s final weekend, CNN completed February ’22 with month to month gains: +22% in total primetime viewers, +51% in adults 25-54 during primetime, +26% in total day viewers and +50% in adults 25-54 across total day vs. what CNN averaged in those measurements the previous month (January ’22), which was an especially poor one for the network having experienced the most significant year-over-year declines on cable news.


The month-to-month gains in February are strong, but the year-over-year trend remains poor. This isn’t a huge surprise, however. Last February, CNN TV viewership was significant due to the second impeachment and acquittal of Former President Trump, as well as the ongoing heightened environment of the Covid-19 pandemic.  During a heavy news cycle, and as a news organization, CNN often increases the most. Therefore, it’s not surprising that viewership is down the most vs. last year’s highs. (CNN was the No. 1 cable network among adults 25-54 in Feb. ’21). This past month shed -54% in total primetime viewers, -48% in the primetime demo, -48% in total day viewers and -46% in total day adults 25-54 vs. Feb. 2021.

The network also continues to struggle at 9 p.m. It lags in a distant third behind Fox News and MSNBC, both in total viewers and among adults 25-54. Chris Licht will be tasked with naming a permanent 9 p.m. host early in his tenure, a pivotal decision for the new boss.

The average Nielsen live + same day impressions for Feb. ’22:

  • Prime time (Mon.-Sun.): 774,000 total viewers/212,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon.-Sun.): 621,000 total viewers/152,000 A25-54

On the programming front, Anderson Cooper 360 delivered CNN’s highest rated program in both total viewers and in the key A25-54 in February, and defeated the 8 p.m. MSNBC competition. The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett Outfront and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon beat their MSNBC competition in the demo, but came up short in total viewers. Additionally, CNN’s 9 p.m. hour continues to struggle without a permanent host.

For more information on CNN’s viewership info for Feb. 2022, below is the network’s ratings press release:


CNN is a Top Five Cable Network in Total Day and Dayside in Total Viewers 

CNN Outperforms MSNBC in Total Day, Prime Time, Dayside, Weekends & Sunday Morning in the Key Demo 25-54 in February 
Viewers are tuning into CNN’s extensive and worldwide coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February. CNN averaged 1.316 million total viewers and 412k in the demo in Total day and 1.746 million/597k in primetime since Wednesday (2/23-2/27), up triple digits from the monthly average prior to the invasion, and having the highest growth across cable news in both dayparts and demos.

In February, CNN was also a top 5 cable network (not just news) in total day and daytime among total viewers. CNN reaches 171 million people in the U.S. across TV and digital and reaches more people across those platforms than any other news brand among 25-54 (83 million) and 18-34 (40 million). CNN also reaches the largest monthly cumulative TV audience of any cable news network among both total viewers (56 million) and 25-54 (17 million) and has done so consecutively for all 21 years on record. In addition to reaching the largest audience, CNN also attracts the youngest audience in cable news in Total Day and prime time.

Competitively, CNN ends the month of February outperforming MSNBC in Total Day and across key dayparts, prime time, dayside, and on Sunday mornings in the key demographic adults 25-54 according to Nielsen data. CNN also topped MSNBC in dayside among total viewers (735k vs. 693k). On weekends, CNN outperformed MSNBC for 21 out of 24 hours on Saturdays and 22 of 24 hours on Sundays.

February Dayparts

  • In Total Day (6am-6am)CNN easily beat MSNBC in the key demo adults 25-54 (152k vs. MSNBC’s 87k) in February. CNN has now outperformed MSNBC for the 27th consecutive month in Total Day demo 25-54. The network also ranked #4 across all of cable (not just news) this month.
  • In Prime Time (M-Su 8-11pm), CNN outperformed MSNBC this month (213k vs. 143k). CNN has now beat MSNBC in prime time in the demo for the second straight month and for 12 of the past 14 months. CNN also topped MSNBC in M-F Prime (213k vs. 178k) for the first time since September 2021.
  • During Dayside (9am-4pm), CNN outperformed MSNBC for the 96th straight month, averaging (166k vs. 76k) in the demo and among total viewers (735k vs. 693k) for the first time since September 2021. The network also ranked #2 in all of cable (not just news) during the day in total viewers in February.
  • On Weekends, CNN also topped MSNBC in Total Day (6am-6am) in total viewers (674k vs. 461k) and in the demo 25-54 (167k vs. 56k). In weekend prime time, CNN beat MSNBC in total viewers (732k vs. 480k) and adults 25-54 (213k vs. 54k). All of CNN’s Sunday morning public affairs programs topped MSNBC among total viewers and in the demo 25-54 this month.

February Weekday Program Ratings

  • New Day with John Berman and Brianna Keilar (6-9pm) averaged 430k in total viewers and 84k in the demo 25-54 in February. Early Start with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett (5-6am) posted 196k/36k respectively.
  • All CNN dayside programs (9am-4pm) beat MSNBC in the demo 25-54 including CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto (9-11am), At This Hour with Kate Bolduan (11am), Inside Politics with John King (noon), CNN Newsroom with Ana Cabrera (1pm) and CNN Newsroom with Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell (2-4pm)
  • The Lead with Jake Tapper easily topped MSNBC this month at 4pm (178k vs. 117k, +52% advantage) now for the 24th straight month. At 5pm, the Tapper-led program had a +61% lead over MSNBC’s Deadline: White House (198k vs. 123k) and has now surpassed them for the tenth consecutive month in the demo adults 25-54.
  • The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (6pm) outperformed MSNBC this month in the key demographic adults 25-54 (199k vs. 134k), posting a +49% advantage. The Blitzer-led program has now outperformed MSNBC for the 24th consecutive month.
  • Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) outperformed MSNBC’s ReidOut in February in the key demo 25-54 (207k vs. 160k), averaging a +29% advantage. The Burnett-led program has now surpassed MSNBC for the 31st straight month.
  • Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) topped All in With Chris Hayes (223k vs. 155k) in February, now outperforming MSNBC for the 26th consecutive month in the demo 25-54; posting a +44% advantage. AC 360 delivered CNN’s highest rated program in both total viewers (871k) and the demo adults 25-54 (223k) this month.
  • CNN programming at 9pm (includes anchoring by Anderson Cooper, John Berman, Laura Coates, Wolf Blitzer) averaged 751k in total viewers and 201k in the demo 25-54 in February.
  • Don Lemon Tonight moved past MSNBC this month at both 10pm and 11pm in the demo 25-54.  At 10pm, the Lemon-led program averaged 220k to MSNBC Last Word’s 147k (+50%) At 11pm, Don Lemon Tonight surpassed MSNBC 184k vs. 99k among adults 25-54, a 86% advantage.

February Weekend Program Ratings

New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Boris Sanchez surpassed MSNBC in either total viewers and/or the demo 25-54 on Saturdays and Sundays during its time period. Smerconish topped MSNBC on Saturday mornings at 9am in the key demo 25-54 (190k vs. 77k) and among total viewers (854k vs. 685k). On weekend afternoons/evenings, CNN Newsroom with Fredricka WhitfieldCNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta and CNN Newsroom with Pamela Brown outperformed MSNBC in each hour on Saturdays/Sundays in both total viewers and the demo 25-54.

On Sunday mornings, all CNN programs outperformed MSNBC in February. Inside Politics with Abby Phillip (8am), State of the Union with Jake Tapper/Dana Bash (9am, noon), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10am, 1pm) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11am) all beat MSNBC in both total viewers and the 25-54 demo this month.

CNN Original Series and CNN Films

  • CNN Original Series LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy (2/20/22 and 2/21/22), a four-part docuseries that took a captivating look at one of the most consequential and enigmatic presidents in American history, ranked #2 in cable news across adults 25-54 and 18-34 during its time period.  The series averaged 775k in total viewers, 147k in adults 25-54 and 22k among younger viewers (18-34), outperforming MSNBC by double digits in the demo and among younger viewers. The series was also up double digits vs. the prior four Sunday time period average in all demos.

(Note: Original Series/Films data represents most recent Live+3 and Live+7 data)

Last February, TV viewership hit ratings highs due to the second impeachment and acquittal of Former President Trump, as well as the ongoing heightened environment of the coronavirus pandemic.  During a heavy newscycle, and as a news organization, CNN often increases the most. Therefore, it’s not surprising that viewership is down vs. last year’s highs.

Of note:  Nielsen’s month of February is from 1/31/22 – 2/27/22

*Multiplatform Reach Source: Comscore Xmedia Total view Audience Analysis Report. Reach includes TV & Digital (computer & mobile). Live +7. Period: Jan-Dec ’21 (average monthly).
Based on P25-54, P18-34 & P2+.