Eight months before Donald Trump pulled off the most stunning upset in American politics, CBS News President Les Moonves demonstrated that he understood the importance the real estate mogul and reality-TV star brought to the race.
“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves told a San Francisco tech conference.
“Donald’s place in this election is a good thing,” Moonves added. “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
And so he did.
The around-the-clock Trump Derangement Syndrome kept liberal eyeballs glued to CNN and MSNBC, as Trump-bashing elevated their ratings into the thin upper air of cable news once populated by only Fox News.
The New York Times, America’s “paper of record” which once needed a Mexican billionaire to fend off bankruptcy, began posting record revenues and subscriptions.
The Washington Post, which avoided shuttering after the world’s richest man took an interest, reported in December that it would hire 150 new reporters this year, bringing its newsroom team to more than 1,000 people, the biggest in the paper’s history.
The question is: can they sustain it with Trump out of office? There are some indicators that perhaps not.
As Variety reported on Monday, “While January 2021 will go down in the ratings record books for CNN, the last week of the month may offer a portent of what the post-Trump era will be like for the network.”
Comparing the week of Jan. 18, which covered Trump’s last days and new President Joe Biden’s inauguration, to the week of Jan. 25, CNN’s ratings for its three primetime shows tumbled 44.4 percent on average.
Meanwhile, said Variety, “Another network that has been characterized as left-leaning, MSNBC, has also seen significant declines but nowhere near as steep as what has hit CNN.”
MSNBC’s primetime audience withered by 16.4 percent on average.
Fox has been taking a beating since conservatives thought the right-leaning network had abandoned Trump. Variety noted its audience had hit a record depth, as viewers turned to conservative rivals OANN and Newsmax. Still, Fox managed to remain relatively steady. Viewership for its primetime line-up was down just 3.5 percent on average.
Variety admitted it was difficult to draw a long-term prognosis from just one week. And ratings may go back up when the 45th president’s impeachment trial begins next week.
Yet, Variety also pointed out, “The downturn could be interpreted as an indicator of what many industry observers had anticipated: With Biden in the White House, networks that have spent the last four years railing consistently against Trump have lost the main attraction that energized their audience bases, making it difficult to hold onto the elevated viewing levels.”
CNN and MSNBC may soon regret not renewing Trump for a second season.