CNN’s new-look morning show needs an early jolt of caffeine. The ratings are in for “CNN This Morning” with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow, and Kaitlan Collins, and they got off to a rough start, lagging behind not only rivals like “Fox & Friends” and “Morning Joe” but also its predecessor on CNN, “New Day.”
“CNN This Morning’ debuted to an average of 387,000 total viewers, according to Nielsen numbers. Of that all-in tally, 71,000 came from the key news demographic of adults 25-54. On its final day of Halloween, “New Day” averaged 353,000 total viewers; of that number, 75,000 came from the main demo.
For all of October, “New Day” averaged 404,000 total viewers (anyone age 2 and older) and 78,000 in the demo. From a year-to-date perspective, the “CNN This Morning” series premiere was down 6 percent in total viewers and -17 percent in the demo. Like “New Day,” “CNN This Morning” airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., the typical morning-show time slot for cable news.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” more than doubled “CNN This Morning” in terms of total viewers, drawing 793,000 on Tuesday. Its advantage in the key demo was slighter but still significant: “Morning Joe” got 114,000 viewers 25-54. That’s nothing. Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” the reigning champion of the cable news morning shows, earned 1.5 million total viewers yesterday; 236,000 of those were from the demo.
So Day 1, November 1, was not one to remember for “CNN This Morning.” Give the new show some time — at least as much time as CNN+ got.
“CNN This Morning” is one of new CNN chief Chris Licht’s first big programming plays since he was appointed as chairman and CEO in May, gambling that by moving Lemon off his struggling primetime slot and Harlow up from her 9 a.m. slot on “CNN Newsroom,” their personalities could be better served in the morning slot and revitalize “New Day.” The move was necessary as “Don Lemon Tonight” was in last place among viewers across CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC in both hours. As for Collins, she’s been a rising star on CNN since becoming its youngest-ever White House correspondent at 29.
The fresh morning show is one of several major changes expected to come at CNN under Licht. In a memo to staff last week, he foreshadowed layoffs as a result of macroeconomic factors and major cost-cutting moves by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. Already CNN has signaled its plans to scale back original documentary film and series collaborations via commissions or third party partners, hoping to bring its long-form programming in-house. Licht’s memo promised that the cuts would not come at the expense of the content and news coverage at the network.
“I will not allow these changes to affect our position as the world’s leading news source, and we will continue to invest in growth areas,” Licht wrote last week. “When we conclude this process, CNN will still be the largest, most-respected newsgathering organization in the world. We will continue to cover any story, anywhere, any time—with more resources than anyone else. Full stop.”