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CNN's Advertising Revenue Plummets Nearly 40% Under Chris Licht

CNN's Advertising Revenue Plummets by Nearly 40% Under Chris Licht,

June 8, 2023: After a tumultuous 13 months as CNN’s CEO, Chris Licht has officially resigned. The main factor contributing to Licht’s downfall seems to be money.

According to data from advertising research firm MediaRadar, CNN has experienced a significant drop of nearly 40% in both digital and on-air advertising revenue during the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period last year, prior to Licht taking the helm.

Licht, known for his successful productions like Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, was brought in by Warner Bros’ Discovery chief, David Zaslav, to replace long-time CNN president Jeff Zucker. However, Licht faced challenges from the start, as Zucker, who left due to an undisclosed relationship with another employee, was highly regarded by CNN’s staff.

Licht was also tasked with transforming CNN into a neutral news outlet, departing from its previous image as an adversarial and “anti-Trump network.” However, this shift resulted in a significant decline in television ratings. During the first quarter of 2023, CNN’s average daily viewership dropped by 27% to 478,000 total viewers and by 40% to 94,000 viewers in the key 25-54 advertising demographic compared to the same period in 2022. These numbers have continued to decline throughout the year.

MediaRadar data shared with The Daily Beast indicates that over 2,000 companies spent $312.6 million on digital and television advertising with CNN through April 2023. This represents a 39% decrease compared to the approximately $513 million spent during the same period in 2022. Interestingly, this decline aligns closely with CNN’s drop in ratings among the key demographic during the same time frame.

While Fox News also experienced a decrease in television ad revenues in the first quarter of this year, it was only 6.8% compared to 2022. However, Fox Corp’s advertising revenue increased by 43% due to its broadcast of the Super Bowl. NBC Universal, the parent company of CNN’s cable news rival MSNBC, saw a modest decline of 6.1% in U.S. ad revenue.

According to MediaRadar, advertising investment in CNN during the first quarter of 2023 amounted to $232.5 million, marking a 35% decrease from the first quarter of 2022. In April, advertising spending dropped to just $80 million, a 48% decrease compared to the previous year. The average monthly ad revenue for CNN through April 2023 was $78 million, a significant drop from the $128 million monthly average during the same period in 2022.

Looking back to early 2022, advertising investment increased monthly from February, when Licht was announced as the incoming CEO, until May, when he officially assumed the role. However, in May, there was an 18% decline compared to April 2022. Apart from double-digit increases in August and November, subsequent months in 2022 showed month-over-month declines.

MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman noted, “Our data analysis suggests a significant downward trend in CNN’s ad revenue during Chris Licht’s tenure, reflecting substantial declines both in total spend and in the number of advertisers.”

In addition to the decline in advertising revenue, CNN has also experienced a decrease in the number of companies advertising with the network. Compared to the same period last year, there has been a 23% drop, and the network has seen a low retention rate, with only 29% of companies that ran ads with CNN in 2022 investing in this.

Read more: CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht Departs Amid Turbulent Year

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