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CNN’s Shift to the Right, Explained

A few days ago, some big news came out. CNN has shuffled Don Lemon from primetime to the morning slot. And this isn’t an unrelated incident. A few weeks earlier, CNN canceled “Reliable Sources”, hosted by Brian Stelter. Furthermore, longtime legal correspondent Jefferey Toobin has left the network. And these events have all happened for the same reason. CNN is moving to the right. 

For context, let’s look at ratings. The last date the data is available (from the time this post is being written) was September 16th. On that date, the Fox News primetime lineup (consisting of Tucker Carlson, Shawn Hannity, and Laura Ingraham) all pulled out an average of 2.3 million viewers, with Greg Gutfeld closing the night with a strong 2 million people tuning in, dominating the late night category. During this same 4 hour period, MSNBC pulled out a very respectable average of 1.2 million viewers, with 762,000 in the hour after primetime. Meanwhile, CNN averaged the lowest, with 689,000 viewers in the traditional 3 hour primetime, and Don Lemon was only able to bring in 484,000 viewers in the hour after. As you can see, CNN slides easily into last place, as Fox News dominates.

The reason CNN has such low ratings comes from a simple cause. Fox News is for Republicans. MSNBC is for Democrats. CNN has put itself in a position so that it is almost universally hated by Republicans, and liked by Democrats. However, MSNBC is loved by democrats, which is where the Democratic base goes to hear the news. In reality, CNN, despite having a large reputation, has no real base. 

The interesting thing about CNN’s new president, Chris Licht, is that he seeks to solve this problem in an interesting way. Make CNN more centrist. And he is doing it in an interesting way. Licht first cancels “Reliable Sources” , a heavily partisan show. Then he hits two birds with one stone by canceling the low rated new day, bringing in Don Lemon to replace the time slot, and (likely) adding a more centrist news host on primetime. And we are seeing Licht’s endeavors play out. CNN is now bringing on conservative guests at a higher rate, hosting more debates, and pressing members of each party the same. CNN is hoping this gamble will pay off, and CNN will gain viewers the moderates, undercutting high rated programs like ABC News and CBS’s “The Nightly News”. 

As you can see, CNN is moving to the right, in an attempt to appeal to moderates. Will this pay off? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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