CNN's brief ratings success with the Trump Town Hall

The television ratings are in, and CNN's live Town Hall Wednesday evening at 8 P.M. E.T. with President Trump, as expected, gave the third-place cable news channel a decisive win in the ratings — but only for the 75 minutes when Trump was on the screen and the 45 minutes of talking-head analysis that followed.  By 10 P.M. E.T., FOX News had regained the lead.  Following the town hall at 8 P.M. E.T. (transcript here), viewers departed CNN, dropping to 2.2 million viewers for the mostly left-wing analysis in the 9 P.M. E.T. hour (transcript here) and 1.2 million for the 10 P.M. E.T. hour (transcript here), losing to FOX News Channel's The Ingraham Angle at 10 P.M. E.T. by 45% in total viewership.  FNC easily won the 11 P.M. hour with Gutfield!, while CNN continued with a third hour of highlights analysis (transcript here) before replaying the Trump Town Hall at 12 A.M. E.T.

According to Nielsen Media Research, CNN's The Trump Town Hall was watched by 3.3 million total viewers.  That number was lower than five FOX News Channel Town Halls with former president Trump in 2020 and 2021, which delivered between 3.5 and 5.1 million total viewers when they aired.  It should be noted that with 258.3 million adults 18 and older living in the United States according to the 2020 Census, slightly over one percent of them watched CNN's Town Hall on Wednesday.  These numbers, of course, don't reflect the larger influence of cable television news programming, especially a marquee event like an exclusive with President Trump, which is amplified by social media and massive reporting and analysis in the mainstream and alternative media.

MSNBC, which vies with CNN for being the leader in left wing cable news, came in third behind CNN and FOX News during the 8 P.M. (CNN Trump Town Hall) hour, and also was behind CNN and FOX News in the hour that followed.  By 10 and 11 P.M. E.T., it was FOX News #1, MSNBC #2, and CNN #3 — pretty much the ratings lineup that, with a few ups and downs, has persisted for years.

For the 24-hour period — 3 A.M. Wednesday to 3 A.M. Thursday — FOX News won the day, averaging 1,319,000 total viewers to CNN's 731,000 and MSNBC's 927,000.

Considering the blowback that CNN has received for broadcasting The Trump Town Hall, from pretty much every direction on the political spectrum, one wonders if — even with a ratings blip of two hours — the undertaking was worth it.

Sources for the Nielsen Research ratings included an industry insider and TV Newser/Adweek (free registration required).

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades.  His web page with links to his work is  Peter's extensive American Thinker archive:  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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