CNN had a nice quarter, with a number of its top personalities delivering some of their largest 3rd quarter audiences ever.
Among all basic cable networks, CNN ranked No.3 in total day and Monday-Sunday prime time among total viewers, marking the 4th consecutive quarter that CNN is a top 5 cable news network in total viewers in total day and 3rd straight quarter in total viewers in prime time.
In total day, CNN beat its rival MSNBC among adults 25-54 in total day and in prime time. CNN also averaged its largest Q3 audience ever in total day.
CNN topped MSNBC in the prime time demo for the third straight quarter (392,000 vs. 326,000).
That said, CNN fell short to both MSNBC and Fox News in total viewers, and saw declines vs. the second quarter of 2020. In Q3 ’20, the network was -16% in total prime time viewers, -26% in the prime time demo, -18% in total day viewers and -29% in total day viewers.
This significant quarter-to-quarter decline isn’t a total surprise, however, especially if one takes into account the fact that CNN’s ratings success is often directly connected to the volume of breaking news stories during that time period. Q2 2020 featured extraordinary global events— a pandemic, worldwide protests against police brutality and social injustice, not to mention a president constantly making news all in the midst of a presidential campaign.
Q2 2020 almost happens to be CNN’s most-watched quarter in the network’s 40-year history.
CNN might have seen a quarter-to-quarter drop off, but how about year-over-year trends? It showed significant growth vs. the year-ago quarter (Q3 2019). In fact, CNN posted more year-over-year growth than its competitors in nearly every measurement, with the exception of the prime time demo (Fox News).
CNN was +47% in total prime time viewers, +46% in the prime time demo, +56% in total day viewers and +61% in the total day demo vs. Q3 2019.
How did the network perform fare against Q3 of 2016? It was +25% in total prime time viewers, and +23% in total day viewers. Q3 2016 had been CNN’s best in 8 years, which goes to show the positive trend the network has been on over these past few years.
One hiccup is among the adults 25-54 audience. It isn’t what it once was; at least not on linear. CNN was -2% in the prime time demo and flat in the total day demo. That said, its digital audience continues to grow, potentially offsetting those slight declines.
The ratings for Q3 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):
- Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,526,000 total viewers / 392,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 971,000 total viewers / 239,000 A25-54
On the programming front, the network’s key personalities— Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon averaged their largest 3rd quarter audiences ever.
Tapper had arguably the most impressive month. He was No. 1 on cable news in his time slot among adults 25-54, to go with attracting his largest Q3 audience in program history, averaging 1.33 million total viewers for the quarter.
How was CNN’s month? As expected, down relative to August, but relatively strong relative to the prior September. Without any conventions to broadcast, CNN is -21% in total prime time viewers, -12% in total day viewers, -31% in the prime time demo and -19% in the total day demo vs. August 2020.
Compared with last September, CNN is +51% in total prime time viewers, +43% in total day viewers, +39% in the prime time demo, but -8% in the total day demo.
The ratings for Sept. 2020 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):
- Prime time (Mon-Sun): 1,336,000 total viewers / 311,000 A25-54
- Total Day (Mon-Sun): 895,000 total viewers / 206,000 A25-54
As was the case with Q3, CNN personalities including Tapper, Blitzer, Burnett, Cooper (8 p.m.), Cuomo and Lemon had their most-watched September ever. Tapper, unlike the others, won his hour in a key measurement: Adults 25-54.
Here’s CNN’s press release for Q3 2020 and September 2020:
CNN BEATS MSNBC IN PRIME TIME, TOTAL DAY, DAYSIDE & WEEKENDS DURING 3Q 2020 IN DEMO
Tapper, Blitzer, Burnett, Cooper, Cuomo and Lemon All Post 3Q Ratings Highs
CNN Posts Double Digit Audience Growth Compared to a Year Ago
CNN Original Series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell Ranked #1 in Cable News in Demo and #2 in Total Viewers;
Is Up Significantly from Last Season
Key CNN Programs Post September Monthly Ratings Highs
CNN hit several ratings milestones in 3Q, including quarterly ratings highs, outperforming MSNBC for a record number of quarters and posting double digit audience growth compared to a year ago. CNN easily outperformed MSNBC in all dayparts – prime time, total day, dayside and weekends – during the third quarter 2020 among adults 25-54. CNN programs led by Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon posted their best 3Q ratings ever. CNN’s digital platforms also had their best summer ever, making CNN the most watched and most used news and information brand in the world.
In total day, CNN easily beat MSNBC (241k vs. 184k) in the key demographic adults 25-54 ranking #2 for the 26th consecutive quarter, the longest quarterly streak in 10 years (since 2Q 2010). CNN had its highest total day in total viewers on record (977k). Compared to a year ago, CNN grew more than FNC or MSNBC in total viewers, increasing its audience by +55%, while Fox was up +28% and MSNBC was +37%. In the key demo adults 25-54, CNN was up an impressive +61% to Fox’s +31% to MSNBC’s +42% in total day vs. last year.
CNN topped MSNBC in M-Su prime time (399k vs. 338k) and in weekday prime (465k vs. 429k) for the third straight quarter. In M-Su prime time, CNN grew more than the others, increasing +45% in total viewers (1.553 million) and +43% among adults 25-54 (399k). In weekday prime time, CNN’s growth was also significant, up +44% in total viewers (1.768 million) and +47% among 25-54 (465k) vs. last year.
During dayside (9a-4p), CNN was #2 in all of cable this quarter among adults 25-54. CNN ranked #1 in cable news every hour from 12pm-4pm, weekdays. CNN has now surpassed MSNBC for the 32nd straight quarter among 25-54 during dayside. In total viewers, CNN averaged 1.138 million, the network’s second highest dayside delivery since 4Q 2001 (behind only 2Q 2020) and second highest demo delivery (278k) since 2Q 2003. Compared to a year ago, CNN is up +71% in total viewers and an impressive +101% in adults 25-54. FNC was up far less +20%/+26% and MSNBC was up +43%/+62% respectively.
On weekends, CNN outperformed MSNBC every hour on both Saturdays and Sundays in 25-54. In total day, CNN outperformed MSNBC in total viewers (799k vs. 660k) and in the demo (181k vs. 101k) And in weekend prime time, CNN outperformed MSNBC in total viewers (1.016 million vs. 783k) and in the key demo 25-54 (236k vs. 109k).
All of Cable, Median Age, Reach and Cross Platform
Among ALL cable networks (not just news), CNN ranked #3 in total day and M-Su/M-F Prime among total viewers, marking the fourth consecutive quarter that CNN is a Top 5 cable news network in total viewers in total day and third straight quarter in total viewers in prime time. 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.
Third Quarter 2020 News Program Highlights
• New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman (6-9am) had its second highest 3Q total viewer delivery (615k) on record (behind only 2017) this quarter. In the demo, the program delivered 138k. New Day grew the most in cable news, increasing double digits vs. a year ago, +33% in total viewers and also had double digit growth (+28%) in the demo adults 25-54. Early Start with Christine Roman and Laura Jarrett (5-6am) topped MSNBC in the demo this quarter (90k vs. 66k) and had the only growth (+14) in cable news vs. year ago among 25-54.
• The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) ranked #1 in cable news this quarter for the second straight month among 25-54 with 305k, FNC followed with 291k and MSNBC lagged with 251k. This is the program’s highest 3Q delivery on record among both total viewers (1.330 million) and 25-54 (305k). The Tapper-led program grew +70% in total viewers and +87% in the demo, far surpassing FNC or MSNBC’s growth vs. last third quarter.
• Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ranked #2 in cable news this quarter, topping MSNBC at both 5pm (331k vs. 250k) and 6pm (326k vs. 259k) in the key demo 25-54. The Blitzer-led program has topped MSNBC at 5pm for 25 consecutive quarters and at 6pm for 24 straight quarters. The Sit Room had its highest 3Q delivery in both total viewers at 5pm (1.407 million) and 6pm (1.271 million) and in the demo during both hours as well (331k/326k). The program also grew the most in cable news at 5pm vs. last year, increasing +65% in total viewers and +87% in the demo and at 6pm, increasing +64%/+69% respectively.
• Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) beat MSNBC in the demo (359k vs. 293) this quarter — now for the ninth consecutive quarter. EBOF is having its best 3Q quarter delivery ever in total viewers (1.365 million) and second best in the demo 25-54 (359k). The Burnett-led program also had the most growth in cable news at 7pm in both total viewers (+65%) and the demo (+72%) vs. the third quarter a year ago.
• Anderson Cooper 360 (8pm) surpassed MSNBC’s All In in the demo (402k vs. 318k) now for the third consecutive quarter. The program had its highest 3Q on record among total viewers (1.589 million) and third highest among 25-54 (402k, behind 2017 and 2016). The Cooper-led show also had the most growth in cable news at 8pm, increasing +67% in total viewers and +72% in the demo.
• Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) was CNN’s most-watched program this quarter in total viewers ( 1.769 million) and among adults 25-54 (431k). The Cuomo-led hour also had its best 3Q on record among total viewers and 25-54 and the network’s overall second-best 9pm time period delivery in total viewers (behind only 1998) and third highest on record among 25-54, just after 2001 and 2005. CPT had the most growth in cable news, increasing +66% in total viewers and +65% in the demo, far surpassing FNC or MSNBC.
• CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) outperformed MSNBC’s Last Word in the key demo adults 25-54 (394k vs. 356k) now for the third consecutive quarter. The Lemon-led program had its best 3Q on record among total viewers (1.406 million) and third highest on record among 25-54 (394k, behind 2017 & 2016). In addition, CNN Tonight had its second highest quarter ever in total viewers. The program grew the most in cable news at 10pm vs. a year ago, increasing +50% in total viewers and +57% in the demo 25-54. At 11pm, CNN Tonight was up +47% in total viewers and +56% in the demo 25-54.
Jim Acosta, Brooke Baldwin, Dana Bash, John Berman, Victor Blackwell, Wolf Blitzer, Kate Bolduan, Pam Brown, Ana Cabrera, Anderson Cooper, Bianna Golodryga, Poppy Harlow, Erica Hill, Brianna Keilar, John King, Alex Marquardt, Christi Paul, Abby Phillip, Boris Sanchez, Martin Savidge, Jim Sciutto, Amara Walker and Fredricka Whitfield all contributed to CNN Newsroom during dayside and/or weekend coverage during the third quarter 2020.
Weekend Program Highlights
• CNN ranked #1 on Saturdays surpassing both FNC and MSNBC, every hour from 1p-6pm in the demo adults 25-54. On Sundays, the network was top-rated at noon and 1pm and every hour from 3-8pm, 10pm hour and from 2a-5am.
• CNN topped MSNBC for all 24 out of 24 hours on both Saturdays and Sundays in the demo 25-54.
• New Day Weekend with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell ranked #2 in cable news in either total viewers and/or the demo adults 25-54 during its respective time periods on Saturdays and Sundays this quarter, growing double digits vs. a year ago.
• Smerconish (Sat. 9am) delivered 890k among total viewers and 192k among adults 25-54, ranking #2 across cable news in the demo. The Smerconish led program grew double digits from a year ago, increasing +33% in total viewers and +57% in the demo adults 25-54.
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer aired on weekends throughout the quarter and ranked #2 on both Saturdays and Sundays among adults 25-54, growing double digits in each hour vs. year ago among total viewers and the demo.
• Inside Politics with John King (Sun. 8am) topped MSNBC in both total viewers (740k vs. 657k) and in the demo 25-54 (157k vs. 97k). The King led program grew double digits vs. last year increasing +31% in total viewers and +26% in the demo from last year.
• State of the Union with Jake Tapper (Sun 9am) ranked #2 in cable news, outperforming MSNBC in total viewers (1.004 million vs. 725k) and in the demo (214k vs. 110k) this quarter. At noon, The Tapper led program was #1 in cable news with 243k, FNC followed with 225k and MSNBC had 147k among adults 25-54. SOTU was also up double digits at 9am, increasing +48% in total viewers and +34% in the demo 25-54 and at noon +54%/+50% respectively.
• Fareed Zakaria GPS (Sun 10am) surpassed MSNBC on Sunday mornings in total viewers (1.036 million vs. 876k) and among adults 25-54 (211k vs. 135k). At 1pm, The Zakaria led program was #1 in cable news averaging 202k, FNC had 193k and MSNBC posted 132k in the demo. GPS also grew double digits compared to the third quarter last year, +43% in total viewers and in the demo at 10am and at 1pm +64%/+79 respectively.
• Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (Sun 11am) ranked #2 in cable news this quarter, easily topping MSNBC in total viewers (1.033 million vs. 978k) and in the demo adults 25-54 (216k vs. 152k). The Stelter led media program grew +45% in total viewers and +40% in the demo vs. last year.
CNN Original Series/CNN Films
• Season five of CNN’s Original Series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell (7/19/20-8/30/20) ranked #1 in cable news during its time period averaging 298k among 25-54 and ranked #2 in total viewers with 1.069 million. Compared to Season 4, the Bell-led series was up an impressive +90% in total viewers and +51% in the demo adults 25-54.
• The CNN Films premiere of John Lewis: Good Trouble (Sun, 9/27/20; 9p-10:57p) a documentary exploring the life and legacy of civil rights icon and legislator Rep. John Lewis, attracted 799k total viewers and 175k among the demo 25-54.
CNN Special Programming
CNN aired many hours of special programming and Town Halls this quarter, below is the special programming for the month of September:
• 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 viewing since they began airing in early March. The Town Halls have robust interest among viewers, averaging 1.880 million total viewers and 544k in the demo adults 25-54 over 22 episodes.
• CNN’s Joe Biden Town Hall hosted by Anderson Cooper on Thursday, 9/17/20 drew 742k among 25-54 and 3.445m total viewers, ranking #2 across cable news. This was CNN’s highest single candidate town hall on record.
• CNN’s The ABC’s of Back to School Town Hall on Saturday, 9/12/20 hosted by Erica Hill and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with Sesame Street’s Big Bird, drew 134k in the demo and 567k among total viewers.
• CNN’s Champions for Change (Sat, 9/26/20) spotlighting pioneers challenging the status quo, attracted 532k total viewers and 118k among adults 25-54. The hour-long special hosted by John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, ranked #2 in cable news in the key demo.
• CNN Digital viewing added a 1.7% lift (or 17k) to CNN’s P2+ 977k million total day TV audience for a total of 994k across platforms this quarter.
Out of Home Lift
• 2020 to date (through 6/7/20), CNN is averaging a +6.3% lift (or +18k) among adults 25-54 OOH viewers and a +4.3% or (or +44k) among total viewers for a total of 297k and 1.029 million, combined in-home and OOH adults 25-54 and total viewers respectively.
September Monthly Program Highlights
• The Lead with Jake Tapper (4pm) had its highest September on record in total viewers (1.280 million), growing +50% vs. last year. The program topped MSNBC in the key demo 25-54 (272k vs. 247k), increasing +54% from a year ago.
• The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer had its second-best September on record in total viewers at both 5pm (1.308 million) and 6pm(1.177 million) (behind 2005/2008). The Blitzer led program topped MSNBC during both hours in the demo (5pm 292k vs. 264k; 6pm 288k vs. 264k), growing +49%/+35% respectively.
• Erin Burnett Outfront (7pm) had its highest September ever in total viewers (1.263 million) and topped MSNBC (314k vs. 303k) in the demo adults 25-54 for the 14th consecutive month. The Burnett-led program grew the most in cable news in total viewers (+42%) and was up +38% in the demo compared to last year.
• Anderson Cooper 360 at 8pm also had its highest September on record among total viewers (1.503 million) and outperformed MSNBC in the demo (360k vs. 329k) for the ninth consecutive month. AC360 grew double digits, +47% vs. year ago among total viewers and +42% in the demo.
• Cuomo Prime Time (9pm) had its best September ever in total viewers (1.623 million), delivering CNN’s highest viewership in both total viewers and the demo adults 25-54 (370k). The Cuomo-led program had the most growth in cable news at 9pm among total viewers (+47%) and was up double digits (+33%) in the demo vs. year ago.
• CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (10pm) had its highest September on record in total viewers (1.353 million) and registered the most growth in cable news at 10pm in total viewers (+42%) and was up double digits in the demo (+38%, 354k). The Lemon-led hour of CNN Tonight at 11pm was up +43% in total viewers and +47% in the key demo compared to last September, far outpacing MSNBC’s The 11th Hour respectively (+21%/+28%).
• On Sundays, Inside Politics with John King (8am), State of The Union with Jake Tapper (9am), Fareed Zakaria GPS (10am) and Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter (11am) all topped MSNBC, ranking #2 in cable news in their respective time periods and growing double digits compared to a year ago. On Saturdays, Smerconish ranked #2 in cable news in the demo 25-54 and had the highest double-digit growth in the time period vs. last year.