CNN was the biggest winner in Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate. The liberal news network averaged 24 million viewers in the three-hour marathon.
That is triple the ratings CNN drew in the Democratic debates in the 2008 cycle.
There is a lesson in that, which I wonder if CNN management is smart enough to accept. Founded by loony liberal billionaire Ted Turner, the network has mocked conservatives throughout its nearly 35-year history.
And yet conservatives gave CNN its most profitable three hours ever.
In the words of one 2016 presidential candidate, ratings for Wednesday’s primetime Republican presidential debate were yuuuuuge.
According to Nielsen data, the 3-hour broadcast drew an average of 22.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN history, eclipsing the 16.8 million viewers who tuned in to watch Larry King host an informal debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot in 1993. It also shattered the mark for CNN’s previously most-watched presidential primary debate, a 2008 Democratic primary debate that averaged 8.3 million viewers.
To put these numbers in perspective, the early primary debates during the 2012 presidential campaign drew between 4 million and 5 million viewers. But those contests didn’t have one key element: Donald Trump, who once drew more than 28 million viewers as host of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”Of course comparing news ratings to an entertainment show is nonsensical.
The lesson for CNN is to appeal to conservative viewers. The demo no longer matters. Cable TV subscription fees depend on eyeballs. Fox News rakes in those fees.
If I were in charge of CNN, I would sign Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, Ed Morrisey, and any other telegenic Tea Party-friendly conservative I could get my mitts on. I would use them to balance the lefties.
Meanwhile, MSNBC is shut out of these debates. The next one goes to CNBC, and the one after that to Fox Business Network (I hope Kennedy and Neil Cavuto do that one).
Conservatives watch cable TV news. Instead of pandering to the politicians, how about serving the audience?