2021 in Review: CNN Loses Nearly 90% of Their Audience

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

It was, without a doubt, a devastating year for CNN, shedding nearly 90% of its early 2021 audience in multiple categories. The network averaged 2.7 million viewers from January 4th to the 10th last year after a brief post-election spike, followed by months of plummeting numbers. Last week, the total viewers averaged around 548,000 last week, a staggering drop of over 80%.

The progressive network has had issues retaining viewers during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m. The cable news station went from 4.2 million total viewers during the first week of 2021 down to just under 705,000 tuning in, a dismal drop off of 83%. CNN also shed 89% of its primetime viewers among the key demo and a whopping 91% of viewers between the ages 18-49, going from a high of 624,000 viewers to a dismal 73,000.

CNN had its best numbers during the January 6th, 2021, riots at the Capitol, averaging 5.3 million viewers on that day. However, the network failed to crack 1.5 million viewers during the anniversary with special programming, averaging only 743,000 viewers, a decline of over 86% from the previous year. CNN’s January 6th coverage also lost 92% of its viewers among the key demo and 87% of primetime viewers.

By contrast, Fox kicked off the 2022 New Year as the number one cable network from January 3rd to the 9th, outdrawing both CNN and MSNBC combined for over 21 straight weeks.

The cable network also averaged 1.4 million total viewers last week for only a 15% drop, compared to the first full week of 2021 when a jam-packed news cycle which included the Capitol riot that ensued. Fox also outdrew NFL-heavy ESPN’s 1.1 million viewers to finish as the most-watched basic cable option.

“The Five” finished as the most-watched cable news offering last week, averaging 3.4 million viewers. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” was the most-watched show among the demo, averaging 561,000 viewers in the critical category.

“Hannity” averaged 2.8 million viewers, making Fox News the most-watched network across all of basic cable for the sixth-straight year.

“Gutfeld!”, hosted by Greg Gutfeld, was launched in 2021 when Fox News joined the late-night space with great success. It swiftly became the second highest-rated program in late night television with an average audience of 1.7 million viewers, topping ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, NBC’s “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon”, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”, and TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” in the process.

On January 6th, Fox News averaged 1.6 million total viewers, 2.8 million during primetime, and 449,000 among the primetime demo, crushing CNN and MSNBC in all categories on the somber anniversary. Fox News was also the No. 1 cable news network during coverage of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks, drawing 1.7 million viewers and 270,000 among the demo.

MSNBC finished second with an average audience of 915,000 and CNN settled for third place with 783,000. ESPN and HGTV joined the cable news channels among the top five.

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