This Is CNN: Low Ratings, High Profits

CNN is on track for record profits this year. At Newsbusters, Matthew Sheffield asks, “How is that possible in the face of continued failures in both the daytime and primetime dayparts?”


The answer can be found in an article Sheffield links to in the Atlantic that essentially describes America’s CNN, the preferred network of airport departure lounges — if not those temporarily trapped within them — as now little more than a loss leader for parent company Time-Warner (which also distributes leading Obama donor and champion of civility Bill Maher’s weekly late-night show on HBO). The real money for the network is in the foreign office:

[A]s a business, CNN is on track to net nearly $600 million in operating profit this year, a record high, which means that in the statistic that matters most, the network is anything but “ailing.”

So how does CNN make so much money with such lousy ratings? Oddly enough, the secret is its oft-derided non-partisan perspective and its international presence. In May, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, told shareholders the $600 million figure was linked to its international success. Though often under-appreciated in the States, CNN International, has its tentacles everywhere, as the Financial Times’ Emily Steel and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson reported last month. “Its global network CNN International, available in more than 265 million households across more than 200 countries, has reported record growth in audience and ad revenues this year,” they reported. And if you’re looking for where it compensates for its meager primetime ratings, look no further than this stat: “CNN International accounts for 20 percent of CNN’s global revenue, a spokeswoman says, or twice the contribution from US primetime ads,” they reported. “About half of CNN Worldwide’s revenues come from fees from cable and satellite distributors, which research firm SNL Kagan estimates will hit $17 billion in the US alone this year, up 9.3 percent from 2011.”


Dubbing CNNi “the anti-American channel” in a December 2004 interview with C-Span’s Brian Lamb, Roger Ailes of ratings champ Fox News pondered just what sort of message CNNi sends out to the world about the US, in a cable feed makes the domestic CNN seem at times, well, like Fox News:

Update: Veteran political consultant Roger Stone asks, “What’s wrong with CNN?” It looks like you’re going to need a bigger blog.


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