There’s good news even in our blighted time. CNN’s airport network is going away. Chief Jeff Zucker laments the death of a network that frankly no one watched or cared about.
“Having to say goodbye to such a beloved brand is not easy,” said Jeff Zucker, CNN Worldwide’s president, in a statement. “I want to thank our friends and colleagues who have contributed to its success and to celebrate the fact that for 30 years, the CNN Airport Network has kept millions of domestic travelers informed. It also became an iconic part of the traveling experience in this country. I am sure most of us have a story to tell about which airport we were at when we first learned of a major news event. Be proud that we had a hand in sharing some incredible stories with many millions of people over the past three decades.”
Literally none of that is true.
People who watched CNN in the airports in the pre-smartphone era did so because they had no alternative. A captive audience =/= a “beloved brand.” It was a brand CNN imposed by contract and we had to watch while we were sitting in terminals between flights. If you noticed the crowds around you in those days, hardly anyone was watching unless there was some breaking story. Then, they were watching because they had no alternative. The channel could not be changed and they had no phone to find a better source.
When travelers had a choice, away from the airports, they tended to choose Fox. That’s what the ratings say.
The network was not “iconic” in any sense. It was wallpaper. It felt like state-run TV.
In the smartphone era, even less than no one watched CNN Airport. I’d sooner check email, check in with family, or download a game than watch Anderson Cooper’s mug while waiting for my next flight. The airport sports bars usually had some sport on. People would gravitate to them for a drink and something besides CNN.
Recently, when there was breaking news of Trump’s historic Middle East peace deals, CNN didn’t even bother to cover it. Travelers might have wanted to know about that. They got another heaping dose of COVID panic instead.
Zucker’s statement does say a lot about how CNN views itself and its place in the world. It’s a network driven more by ego than news, more by self-interest than facts. It’s not beloved, never was an icon, and its passing won’t be long remembered.
CNN Airport Network is gone. Good. I’ve spent more time writing about it here than anyone will spend missing it. Let’s hope each airport chooses something better, which can be literally anything, including turning the screens off to save electricity.