CNN drew its lowest ratings in over a year last week, averaging just 385,000 total viewers and only 95,000 viewers in the coveted 25-to-54 demo -- a miniscule viewership, even by cable news standards.
At the N.Y. Times, Bill Carter attributes the fall to the heavy healthcare coverage and notes that ratings were buoyed on Friday by the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. That will hardly reassure network president Jeff Zucker, who is coming up on one year at the helm.
CNN's ratings diagnosis has always been: strong in times of crisis, weak in times of calm. As one CNN employee told the Times last year, "Maybe CNN is like an emergency room" -- you go there when there's an emergency, but you don't stay any longer than you have to.
Zucker's mission was to fix that by creating strong, personality driven programming that's compelling even when there isn't a shooting, or an explosion, or a hurricane. Fine, healthcare isn't great for ratings. That didn't hurt MSNBC as hard as it hurt CNN, and there's a reason for that.
For Zucker, last week's ratings -- the lowest in his tenure -- are certainly a blow. Obviously, righting a tanker takes time, and Zucker has moved systematically through CNN's programming: a new morning show, Jake Tapper's late-afternoon program, the relaunched "Crossfire" at 6:30 p.m. But the biggest ratings come in primetime, and with the exception of "AC360 Later," Zucker hasn't made any dramatic moves there.
The recent hire of Bill Weir from ABC suggests Zucker is set to put some primetime changes in place. If he wants to boost ratings, that change -- whatever it is -- couldn't come soon enough.