Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav insisted “CNN is back” on Wednesday amid dreary viewership that paints a different picture.
“It’s not just that the ratings are up, it’s not just that primetime is up, it’s that what people want to know, from a trusted source what’s going on in the world. CNN is a back,” Zaslav, who runs CNN’s parent company, said at the annual New York Times DealBook Summit.
Despite Zaslav’s remarks, CNN has struggled in the ratings department. During the news-heavy month of October, CNN’s most-watched show was “Anderson Cooper 360,” which finished No. 27 among cable news programs – behind 14 Fox News programs and 12 MSNBC offerings.
In October, Fox News averaged 1.4 million total day viewers, compared to only 600,000 for CNN. When it comes to the advertiser-coveted demo of adults ages 25-54, FNC averaged 174,000 total day viewers while CNN managed 124,000.
During the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m., Fox News averaged 2.1 million viewers compared to only 722,000 for CNN. It doesn’t appear much better for CNN during November, as early data indicates it will be down across the board compared to last month.
Zaslav fired CNN CEO Chris Licht in June after a little more than a year on the job, as he failed to turn around the long-troubled news network as many staffers didn’t approve of his nonpartisan approach. DealBook Summit host Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out that Licht was in the audience, but that didn’t stop Zaslav from fawning over his replacement.
“Mark Thompson is now the CEO of CNN, formerly the CEO of The New York Times. As we said, Chris Licht used to be the CEO, he’s here,” Sorkin said, but Zaslav chimed in before he could ask a question.
“Exceptional leader,” Zaslav said of Thompson. “Ground-up leader, great track record. He ran the BBC for eight years, he turned around the Times, and he got into CNN, which I think is the greatest journalistic organization in the world, and he’s there in the morning, he’s on the nine o’clock call, he’s in the control room, and he’s won the hearts and minds of the team.”
The comment could be seen as a jab at Licht, who was criticized internally for not being hands-on enough early in his tenure. However, Zaslav also complimented Licht on past success at “Morning Joe” and CBS, where he worked before his stint running CNN.