After several down years, CNN has bounced back to the point that its president, Jeff Zucker, is feeling confident and cocky about the network’s future.
CNN ‘s primetime viewership was up 11 percent in total viewers and 7 percent in the demo, which was tops among all the cable news networks in the first quarter of this year. It was CNN’s fourth straight quarterly victory over MSNBC, though they still trail Fox News by a wide margin.
That has Zucker feeling good, and he told The Hollywood Reporter that CNN has “made a lot of progress” and that it has a “lot of momentum.”
CNN’s gains haven’t come as much from any brilliant programming decisions by Zucker, as by the utter collapse of MSNBC, which has idly stood by and watched its audience desert it.
CNN has had particular success with its morning show, New Day, which has beaten MSNBC”s Morning Joe for 11 consecutive months in the demo. CNN even taunted Scarborough and company in a full-page ad back in January.
While New Day has been winning the overall demo, it still trails Morning Joe in that category in New York and Washington, D.C., which prompted Joe Scarborough to tweet that his show is preferred by “influencers.”
Zucker scoffed at that defense and told the Reporter, “That’s not how the game is played; that’s not how [TV] is sold. And if that’s what you’re talking about, it’s probably about time to start getting your résumé ready.”
Scarborough, who is no shrinking violet, fired back in an email to Politico’s On Media  blog:
More people have watched ‘Morning Joe’ than CNN for five straight years. As the political season heats up, I expect that winning streak to rise to six. It is also a matter of record that ‘Morning Joe’ sets the agenda for politicians, the press and other influencers every morning from the White House, to Capitol Hill to media offices nationwide. Oh yeah. ‘Morning Joe’ makes MSNBC a lot of money.
The fact the network president of CNN Worldwide is so obsessed with a morning talk-show host proves the point by itself that ‘Morning Joe’ remains the news show that matters most to influencers, What is even more humorous than Jeff’s Ahab-like obsession with me is that Jeff knows personally members of his executive team and own family watch ‘Morning Joe’ every day. He also knows that being the most influential news show in cable drives up subscription fees for our network in a way that shrinks the significance of a few wins in a single demo. ‘Morning Joe’ matters to people who run the world, and I guess that still drives Jeff crazy.
Scarborough is correct on the total viewership point, but he knows full well that the demo is a more important measurement as it’s the one that advertisers use in deciding where to spend their money. When you finish fourth in the demo, as Morning Joe has done on more than one occasion, influencers or not, the ad dollars are more likely to go elsewhere.