Sad Day for CNN: Mark Levin Wipes the Floor with Anderson Cooper's New Show


Sometimes, new anchors take a while to get ratings traction at a network. It’s only understandable, since fresh faces need to take hold.

Anderson Cooper is anything but a fresh face, particularly at CNN. He’s been with the network since 2001 and, since his on-site coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has been one of the network’s stars — such as they may shine these days at troubled CNN.

Now, things are bad enough that his new Sunday show is getting soundly trounced by a Fox News host who only appears on weekends and is best known for his staunchly conservative, no-holds-barred radio punditry.

The Sunday debut of the much-ballyhooed “The Whole Story With Anderson Cooper” flopped so badly that, according to Nielsen numbers, the show only drew 496,000 viewers, with 85,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

That’s way below its Fox News competitor on Sundays in the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time slot: “Life, Liberty and Levin,” hosted by radio icon Mark Levin, drew 1,389,000 viewers and 99,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

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While MSNBC’s “Mehdi Hasan Show” also beat CNN in total viewers in the time slot, with 555,000, Cooper notched his only outright victory over any of the cable news space’s big three by beating Hasan’s 35,000 in the coveted 25-54 demographic.

It’s also worth pointing out that, on the same night, Cooper’s unacknowledged fake news was beaten out by deliberate fake news, and on a premium channel, no less: John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO Prime hit 500,000 viewers, with 111,000 in demographic.

Other broadcasts that beat Anderson Cooper’s new gig on Sunday in terms of total viewers, albeit in different time slots: The Hallmark Channel’s “Reba” (509,000 total viewers), a rerun of “Mike and Molly” — a show that ended in 2017 — on TV Land (510,000 viewers), and a rebroadcast of English Premier League soccer on USA Network (515,000 viewers).

In the last case, it’s worth noting those matches air at 9 a.m. Eastern on Sundays, due to the time difference between the United States and England.

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Yes, soccer from overseas — the sport Americans pretend to like in order to seem vaguely cosmopolitan — got more people to roll out of bed on a weekend morning than Anderson Cooper could induce to turn to his new Sunday show in prime time, when viewers are supposed to be wide awake and searching for something to watch.

In a March news release, CNN hyped the new Cooper show as “a collection of unique and immersive single subject, one-hour episodes from CNN’s Emmy and Peabody Award-winning longform storytelling team.”  media release.

“Powered by CNN’s unmatched global journalism operation, ‘The Whole Story’ goes behind the headlines, touching every continent and corner of the planet, as we bring our viewers into the heart of the essential stories of our time,” CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht, who has been desperately trying to juice ratings at the network since he took over last year, said in a statement.

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The first episode was titled “The Trek: A Migrant Trail to America,” in which chief international security corresponded Nick Paton Walsh “embeds with a group of migrants on their arduous journey on foot through the Darien Gap, from South to Central America, on their way to seek asylum in the United States.”

Future episodes will include “What Happened to San Francisco?” — a liberal network apparently has to ask this in a manner that’s in no way rhetorical — “Shaken: Baby Powder on Trial”, which will look at women who claim that talc baby powder marketed by Johnson & Johnson was a dangerous substance that caused their cancer, and “Magic Mushrooms,” in which David Culver surveys the world of psylocibin, taking viewers through the myths, the medicine, and the money surrounding the psychedelic plant” which contains a dangerous substance.

So, you know, the typical CNN fare.

Now, one show does not equal ratings doom for Cooper’s new Sunday-night venture, but it comes as the network’s endless reshuffles haven’t brought it any closer to the political center or to ratings success.

When Licht came in as network CEO last year, after the pugnacious Jeff Zucker was forced out amid a merger that involved CNN’s parent company, he signaled that the network would become less of an agitprop outlet and focus more on hard news, like it had back in the heady days when Larry King was the closest the network got to punditry and Wolf Blitzer’s beard was either well-dyed or not gray.

That hasn’t really happened. Licht’s idea of a major shakeup seems to have been moving pundit Don Lemon to CNN’s morning show, where he’s racked up bad press for his combative, diva-like relationship with his co-hosts and other staffers. This, along with Chris Cuomo’s dismissal from the network, ostensibly removed the pundits from prime time, but one didn’t exactly sense that the network’s coverage has become any more fair.

Meanwhile, ratings have been abysmal across the board. In mid-March, CNN’s average prime-time viewership in the 25-54 demographic slipped to only 84,000 viewers, its lowest numbers since 1991; Fox News averaged 219,000 25-54 viewers in prime time over the same week.

In terms of total average prime-time viewership across demographics, Fox News was tops in all of cable with almost 2 million, while CNN was 21st with 383,000.

Sunday’s ratings debacle, in other words, was only the latest evidence that shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic simply won’t do for CNN. But then, given how few people trust the brand as it is, it’s difficult to imagine what would work — and I don’t think Mark Levin is about to jump ship to help Licht out.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture