Accuracy in Media

Following a month in which it experienced its lowest daytime ratings in more than a decade, CNN hit a 20-year primetime ratings low in May.

This wasn’t totally unexpected, as CNN had recorded its worst weekly ratings in two decades earlier in the month.

Still, the numbers were disastrous, with CNN attracting the lowest monthly primetime total viewership since October 1991 and the second lowest-rated month in more than 20 years in the advertiser important A25-54 demographic.

May was a slow news month for all the major cable news networks, with Fox off nine percent and MSNBC off 19 percent overall compared to May 2011, but CNN’s audience fell a whopping 51 percent by comparison. CNN was also off by 61 percent in the A25-54 demo.

That translated to an average of 1.7 million total primetime viewers for Fox News, 674,000 for MSNBC and a paltry 389,000 for CNN.

The news was bad across the board for all of CNN’s primetime programs, but two programs bore the brunt of the ratings collapse.

The Piers Morgan Show managed to rack up the lowest-rated hour in more than 20 years in both the overall audience and the A25-54 demo. Erin Burnet’s show didn’t fare much better, with the worst ratings in the A25-54 demo in the 7 p.m. hour in more than 20 years as well.

The immediate outlook for CNN isn’t very good as the summer months are notoriously slow news months, and could send the ratings down even further.

CNN is still very profitable for Time-Warner, largely fueled by the success of CNN International. But if the ratings continue to sag there will be little reason for advertisers to support CNN, which will have a significant impact on its operations going forward.

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