CNN continues to hemorrhage viewers as new cable news boss Chris Licht scrambles to remake the primetime and morning lineups in an effort to reorient the channel toward more centrist reporting.
The embattled cable network has fallen even further behind perennial leader Fox News and the slightly revamped MSNBC, according to the latest ratings.
“CNN is in a bad place. The ratings are down really dramatically year over year,” said one seasoned media exec. “I’m not sure the company understands how hard it is [to dig out].”
“The turnaround that he had to do was pretty incredible,” added a CNN insider.
Even though Licht “knows what he’s doing,” the source said that the former executive producer of CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “CBS This Morning” has his “work cut out for him.”
In August, Fox News dominated with nine shows making the top 10 highest-rated cable news shows. Only MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow eked out a fifth-place ranking with 2.7 million viewers, lagging behind Fox’s “The Five” (3.4 million), “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (3.3 million), “Hannity” (2.9 million) and “Jesse Watters Primetime” (2.9 million).
The only CNN show to crack the top 25 was “Anderson Cooper 360” — in 25th place with 950,000 viewers.
One of Licht’s big tasks is to name a host for the 9 p.m. hour, which was held by Chris Cuomo before he was ousted last year over his role in advising his older brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his sex harassment scandal.
CNN has instead been running rotating hosts, subbing in the likes of Cooper, who has extended his 8 p.m. show an extra hour, and Don Lemon, the network’s 10 p.m. host.
Lemon in particular has taken a beating in the ratings. His “Don Lemon Tonight” was the lowest-ranked show in primetime in August, averaging 660,000 viewers.
A CNN source told The Post there are no plans to get rid of Lemon, despite rumors about his future in the time slot.
CNN’s Kasie Hunt, who was poached from NBC News and MSNBC last year, began hosting the 9 p.m. slot this week. Although Hunt has filled in before, insiders buzzed that this could be a tryout for the 37-year-old anchor as the pressure mounts on Licht to fill the spot. She could also be a contender for other prime-time spots that open, they said.
CNN did not comment.
CNN’s decline has been exacerbated by MSNBC’s addition of Alex Wagner, who has slipped into the 9 p.m. hour Tuesday through Friday,.
Wagner, Rachel Maddow’s four-days-a-week replacement, debuted with 2 million viewers on Aug. 16. Her ratings have slipped from between 1.3 million and 1.7 million viewers, but on any given night, the anchor is crushing CNN. In August, CNN’s 9 p.m. show, “CNN Tonight,” averaged just 726,000 total viewers.
Licht is working to undo the opinion-centric reporting that was encouraged under his predecessor, Jeff Zucker. Zucker resigned in February, citing a romantic relationship with a colleague.
The new CNN honcho has already ousted some of the network’s voices most critical of former President Donald Trump. The list includes media reporter Brian Stelter, whose show “Reliable Sources” was canceled last month, as well as legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and political correspondent John Harwood.
On Tuesday, Licht added two on-air hires to bolster the network’s coverage. He tapped John Miller as CNN’s chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. Miller most recently served as the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.
Prior to that, he worked as a correspondent for CBS News and ABC News, where he landed a rare interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998.
Licht also poached Dr. Tara Narula from CBS News as a medical correspondent for the network.