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CNN’s Ratings Dip To Lowest In 21 Years

CNN, struggling to re-establish itself as the go-to spot for news that tilts neither left nor right, still hasn’t found solid footing among viewers.

The original cable news channel plummeted in the second quarter this year to its lowest ratings since 1991.

Viewership for all three major cable news channels from March 26 to June 22 was lower this year than in 2011 – modestly at Fox News Channel, sharper at MSNBC and precipitously at CNN.

In prime time, CNN averaged 446,000 total viewers, with 129,000 in the 25-54 demographic that advertisers covet.

That’s down 35% and 41%, respectively, from the second quarter of 2011.

Fox New Channel averaged 1.79 million prime time viewers, down just 1% from a year ago – though Fox News lost 14% in the 25-54 demographic.

MSNBC averaged 689,000 total viewers, 13% below last year, and was down 17% in 25-54.

That pecking order looked no better for CNN this past Monday, with Fox News averaging 1.956 million in prime time, MSNBC averaging 997,000 and CNN at 362,000.

CNN, which generally tries to stake out the middle ground between right-leaning Fox and left-leaning MSNBC, has a long-established reputation and maintains strong international ratings.

But the network’s numbers have been declining in the U.S. over recent years, and several major changes in the lineup over the last two years have not reversed that trend.

Neither Anderson Cooper at 8 p.m. nor Piers Morgan at 9 p.m. declined by as large a percentage as the network overall, but both time slots fell considerably from a year earlier.

The network also recently cancelled the 6 p.m. John King show, and will soon extend Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room” for another hour.

The overall decline in cable news viewership has created mild concern in the business, because with the Republican primaries and now the general election heating up, this is generally considered prime time for news show with heavy political content.

The decline in viewership, which mirrors a modest quarter for talk radio listenership, might suggest some viewers and listeners have at least temporarily overdosed.

But a large faithful core remains. The No. 1 cable news show for the night was Bill O’Reilly on Fox, with Fox’s Sean Hannity at No. 2.

MSNBC remains upbeat, saying it has established its own brand and held a consistent second place in the news game.

Current TV, which offers a progressive alternative, has not yet made a significant impact.

CNN’s sister station, HLN, at times outdraws CNN. This past Monday, Nancy Grace had more viewers than Cooper and Dr. Drew had more viewers than Morgan.

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