How many viewers does CNN really have

US news channel CNN: The disaster channel

Right, that's Fox News. Left, that's MSNBC. The middle is the once famous CNN. It is of little use to aggressively focus on independence.

Can Anderson Cooper heroically save CNN? Image: dapd

Who else should fix it except Anderson Cooper. Darling of the American news scene, confident in the New York studio as in the crisis areas of the world. Seldom loud, always emphatic. Cooper is CNN's most prominent head - and for a good six months he has been entrusted with the task of bringing his station back to the top of the audience in prime time.

Because the 24-hour news channel has not been there for a long time. In a country where the loud voices dominate and agitate left and right against everything that does not conform to their own dogma, CNN seems like a relic from another time. Where Jim O’Reilly on Fox News whips up the right-wing conservative audience with steep theses and MSNBC and Rachel Maddow binds left-wing viewers to itself, CNN is in the middle - and at the bottom of the news channels in terms of ratings.

In the advertising-relevant prime time from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., CNN had an average of 689,000 viewers a day, according to Nielsen TV Rating, which measures audience ratings in the USA. MSNBC has 775,000 and Fox News is unbeaten at the top with 1,868,000 viewers. 2010 was actually the worst rating year for the Time Warner broadcaster in the past 15 years. Loss of meaning is inevitable.

Even new moderators don't keep their promises. "Larry King Live" was replaced in 2010 after 25 years because of bad ratings by the evil British Piers Morgan. The presenter is best known in the USA as a juror on the casting show "American Idol" and not for making British ex-premier Gordon Brown cry. Morgan confidently announced prior to launch that he would "kick the butt" of Fox News and MSNBC. A year later, the Briton is terribly nice to his guests on his show - he did not achieve his big goal.

Bad odds for Morgan

The figures from Nielsen TV Rating show: Morgan's ratings are significantly worse compared to King. The political, opinion-based programs from competitors Fox News and MSNBC are more popular than hour-long, shallow celebrity interviews.

News alone no longer attracts viewers. Opinion making is the order of the day, whether for or against Obama, for or against environmental protection, for or against health reform. Although Fox News is also struggling with falling ratings, Rupert Murdoch's broadcaster is far behind its competition. Actions like the “Rally to restore Sanity” by the presenter of the “Daily Show” and satirist John Stewart in October 2010 are no more than marginal phenomena.

On his initiative, over 200,000 people gathered in Washington to protest against the “extreme voices” in the country that dominate the debates in the United States.

But in the election campaign year 2012 there was little evidence of this. The Republicans' primary campaign turned into a mudfight. Mitt Romney will have to move back to the more moderate center in the fight for the White House, but the ideological boundaries will remain - guarded by Fox News and MSNBC.

Nevertheless, CNN, whose launch established the round-the-clock news in 1980, is not defeated. As the “State of the News Media Report 2012” of the project for excellence in journalism shows, the station tries to find the place between left and right opinion-making. The study, published annually by the independent Pew Research Center, shows that CNN spent a lot more airtime on international news than the competition over the past year.

Aggressive independence

The ratings during the Arab Spring and the tsunami disaster in Japan were good, and the station was able to position itself ahead of MSNBC at short notice. But with the return of everyday life, the quotas fell. "Despite the new programming strategy, CNN has so far not been able to intervene in the prime-time success of Fox or MSNBC," the report said.

Therefore, the network not only relies on international news and "aggressive independence", as Ken Jautz, President of CNN USA put it. The station invests in its multimedia strategy - with success. According to Nielsen, cnn.com has significantly more visitors than the competition, and CNN is also ahead in terms of mobile use via smartphones and tablet PCs. In July, CNN also began streaming its programming live on the website and via the app. However, the revenue from multimedia content falls far behind that of the classic television business.

If CNN wants to continue to be "the most trusted name in the news business", as a slogan once proclaimed, the makers will have to work even more aggressively on independent reporting. Otherwise the White House battle will take place in American living rooms without CNN and the trustworthy Anderson Cooper.