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‘Cuomo Prime Time’ Delivers CNN’s Top Telecast, FOX News Wins Week

“”Cuomo Prime Time” from Monday, May 17 was the top CNN telecast of the week according to Nielsen Media Research.”

Doug Pucci

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“Cuomo Prime Time” from Monday, May 17 was the top CNN telecast of the week (ending May 23), with 1.194 million total viewers that included 289,000 adults 25-54, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Its host Chris Cuomo himself made news on May 20 when a Washington Post report revealed he had participated in strategy sessions with his brother, the embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, amid ongoing scandals of alleged sexual harassment and an administration-wide undercounting of nursing home patients who succumbed to COVID-19. The Post said Chris urged Andrew not to resign and gave other political advice.

On the night of May 20, Chris opened his CNN program with a response to that published report: “I understand why that was a problem for CNN. It will not happen again. It was a mistake, because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot. I never intended for that, I would never intend for that, and I am sorry for that.

The Thursday, May 20 edition of “Cuomo Prime Time” that featured Chris’ on-air apology drew 1.05 million total viewers and 213,000 adults 25-54 — well short of its time slot competition that night: MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” (2.543 million viewers/360,000 adults 25-54) and Fox News’ “Hannity” (2.427 million viewers/393,000 adults 25-54).

For May 17-21, “Cuomo Prime Time” averaged 1 million viewers and 227,000 adults 25-54; the 10-11 p.m. hour of CNN’s newly-titled “Don Lemon Tonight” (formerly “CNN Tonight”) drew 816,000 viewers with 195,000 adults 25-54, and its 11 p.m.-midnight hour delivered 606,000 viewers with 170,000 25-54. Those “Cuomo” and “Don Lemon” figures marked their lowest of the year, to-date.

For the week concluding May 23, CNN averaged 569,000 viewers in total day (6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m.). It ranked as the week’s fifth most-watched network, sandwiched in between fourth-place HGTV (604,000), sixth-place NBA-Playoff infused TNT (508,000) and seventh-place Investigation Discovery (444,000) — all these networks including CNN now intends to be under the same umbrella with the recently announced WarnerMedia-Discovery merger.

Compared to the prior week (May 10-16), CNN was down 11 percent in total viewers in each total day and prime time; among the key adults 25-54 demographic — the data point that CNN had usually thrived in over the past year — the Cable News Network was down 15 percent in total day and down 18 percent in prime time. Even MSNBC joined the week’s 16 cable networks to best CNN at night (8-11 p.m.) in 25-54.

Here are the cable news averages for May 17-23, 2021 — cable’s two best marks for the week in total viewers based on total day were by Fox News Channel and MSNBC:

Total Day (May 17-23 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.165 million viewers; 197,000 adults 25-54 
  • MSNBC: 0.842 million viewers; 108,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.569 million viewers; 131,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 17-22 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 23 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.100 million viewers; 339,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.483 million viewers; 199,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.829 million viewers; 191,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/17/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.179 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.906 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/18/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.885 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/20/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.856 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.831 million viewers

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 5/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.690 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/17/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.675 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/18/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.665 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 5/18/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.664 million viewers

10. Rachel Maddow Show “0” (MSNBC, Tue. 5/18/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.618 million viewers

108. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN, Mon. 5/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.194 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/17/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.511 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/18/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.469 million adults 25-54

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 5/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.439 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/20/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.438 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 5/18/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.434 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.420 million adults 25-54

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.398 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/19/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.397 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 5/21/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.396 million adults 25-54

12. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 5/18/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.377 million adults 25-54

30. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN, Mon. 5/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.289 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John

    May 28, 2021 at 10:00 am

    LOL @CNN

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BNM Writers

Soledad O’Brien Has Public Service at Heart in Her Reporting

O’Brien admits she didn’t fully grasp what public service reporting looked like until her coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

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A photo of Soledad O'Brien
(Photo: Hearst Media Production Group)

“Fearless,” “determined,” and “kind,” is how many former colleagues would describe Soledad O’Brien. Awarded the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation Insight Award this year at the NAB Show, the veteran journalist spoke with Barrett News Media about her career and what makes her work so impactful. 


Her love of people and figuring things out initially had O’Brien headed to Medical school. Realizing she wanted something else in life, the broadcaster found her passion translated nicely from medicine to journalism.

“I started working in a group called Centro, which was a Spanish language program at WBZ-TV. I just loved going into the newsroom because I loved the energy and the action,” O’Brien recalled. Another appeal was, “No matter if you had a great show or a terrible show, it was over and you started again.”

From WBZ-TV, she moved on to NBC News, KRON in San Fransisco, MSNBC, and back to NBC before joining CNN. For the last 11 years, the native Long Islander has been running a production company along with her own show Matter of Fact, a podcast (Who Killed JFK), and several documentaries.

This year she was honored with the LAFB Insight award for her outstanding journalistic body of work. The award comes after winning several honors in 2023, including a Peabody Award for her documentary on Rosa Parks, plus an Independent Spirit Award for a series mostly centered on Black women who are missing. Also in 2023, O’Brien was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.

Soledad O’Brien was humble about her accolades, saying “It’s always a really amazing thing when your colleagues give you an honor. When people who actually understand the business and know what it takes to do the work that you do say ‘We want to celebrate the work that you’re doing.’”

She noted how beautiful the ceremony was. “It just made me feel, outside of the 10 million hairstyles I’ve had over the years, the range of stories I had the opportunity to tell and be a part of. And, hopefully, I brought some insight and some perspective which was maybe different than what other people brought.”

She noted her most meaningful story was her time in New Orleans.

“I think as a reporter, it was a big turning point. I sort of figured out that reporting was about serving the public, and I’m not sure I 100% understood that before,” Soledad O’Brien admitted. “And it was an opportunity in a story to help people understand not just the storm and the damage, which was massive.

“If you thought Hurricane Katrina was about a storm, it really wasn’t. It was about the have and the have-not in America, right? It was about access, and it was about whose voices get heard, who gets elevated, and what does it mean to be in a relatively large city in America that doesn’t seem to be getting any help pretty fast. And it was about race in America, too, and all those things which made it a very dynamic and complex and complicated story.

“I got a lot of awards for covering that story, but I really enjoyed interviewing people and helping people understand. One question we get, ‘Why don’t people just leave?’ Well, if your parents and your grandparents all live on the same block, where are you going? Can you just pick up and move into a hotel for a month? Well, no, it just doesn’t really work like that. So, I think we were able to bring a lot of insight in that story, and also help people see the lives of people who honestly we don’t really spend a lot of time covering in daily news.”

Swapping out with her co-anchor every month, O’Brien recalled leaving the area.

“We were walking through the Baton Rouge airport, and I remember I had my CNN baseball cap on and there were no showers. I remember packing baby wipes. My kids were little. And I took those big bags of baby wipes, and that’s how we cleaned ourselves up. There were no showers, obviously. We lived in an RV on Canal Street. And I remember we got a standing ovation walking through the airport. I felt like it just was a sign that what we were doing was really valuable and important, and people needed us to help them understand what was happening.

“It was really remarkable. It was very it was very emotional. We felt like, ‘Oh, this job is about serving your viewers and also serving the people whose story is unfolding in their backyards. And they need help to get assistance to understand what’s happening and to get their own perspective out.’”

Today, Soledad O’Brien said she serves the public in several different ways, including on her show Matter of Fact.

“The whole entire ethos of our show is stories as diverse as America. So in an environment where the nation is quite divided and things are often tense and unpleasant, we’re actually, kind of cutting out the middleman.” She went on to say, “We don’t really focus on politicians. We really dig into how policy lands on people. So we’re much more interested in what people have to say about their experiences. And I think that’s been a very interesting perspective for us.”


With her and her team’s focus on voices that are often ignored in the media, she believes this niche is “Exactly an example of serving the public.” Her show is also able to avoid the typical talking heads saying her show is, “Helping people understand complicated issues and stories versus, the two people on TV, they’re diametrically opposed and let them yell at each other for four minutes. And then I’m going to say, ‘Oh my goodness, thank you so much for joining me. We got to go to break now.’ I’m not doing that. And I think because we’re focused on that service, it’s really made the show very successful and popular.”


Part two of Barrett’s conversation with Soledad O’Brien will be coming to a screen near you at a later date.

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BNM Writers

Talk Radio Talent and Producer Coaching Tips From A Master — Part 2

“Mostly with the work that I do in spoken word, I think a producer is strongest when they help pull out your point or the best part of a topic.”

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David G. Hall is an international radio programming consultant who achieved fame in 1991 when he reinvented news and talk radio at KFI, Los Angeles.

I recently shared his insights into coaching talk radio talents.

In part two of our conversation, DGH talks about coaching producers and talent of shows
with multiple hosts.

DW: How do you coach producers? What do you need them to do for the talent?

DGH: Well, mostly with the work that I do in spoken word I think a producer is strongest when they help pull out your point or the best part of a topic. So you say, ‘Oh, we got to talk about this bridge collapse in Baltimore, man. I don’t really know what I want to say.’ And then the producer says, ‘Well, what pisses you off about it?’ Or, ‘What’s the thing that nobody gets?’ And you go, ‘Well, nobody understands X.’ Then the producer says, ‘That’s what you start with right there. There’s your way in and then you can explain it.’

So, (the producer’s job is) to kind of pull out from you what you really want to say, because sometimes it’s hard to find that on your own when you’re just doing everything in your head. So, your producer says, ‘Ok, that’s where you want to start right there,’ and then does whatever research is necessary to help you back that up or to come up with examples or come up with audio.

DW: What about two or three people shows? How do you get them on the same page consistently, learning to think like each other, and not make those hard left turns in conversations?

DGH: I have to deal with that a lot with shows where there’s more than one person. It’s important to help people in multiple-person shows understand you don’t have to say too much to get a lot of attention. A lot of people in that second chair want to keep talking because they feel like if they don’t talk, they’re going to be invisible. But it doesn’t work that way.

So I spent a lot of my time coaching people I would call the second chair people, but they’re really co-hosts, on how to be engaging in a certain way and how to not make a hard left where then all of a sudden you have the listeners, and worse, your co-host, going ‘What the hell? How do I respond to that?’ That comes up a lot. And in music morning shows, I try to keep them from talking over each other and stuff like that.

But the hard part comes with the payoff because when they’re doing a bit or they’re doing a benchmark, I want everybody laughing and smiling as the song starts, and as soon as everybody’s laughing and smiling, get the hell out and start the song. What happens is, especially if there’s more than two people, they one-up each other, right?

So somebody has the perfect out where they should hit the song and then the other person goes ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ and then they say something that causes the first person to try to beat that and before you know it you’ve got four punchlines, each one worse than the one before. Start the song, get the hell out, and prepare for your next bit.

DW: This is great stuff. What would you add or how would you summarize all of this for radio talents and the people who coach them?

DGH: I have three things. The first is you have to be consistent and regular. So if you’re gonna tell me to do this differently, you better show up in a week to remind me because all of us on the radio get stuck in habits and in a comfort zone, right?

So I’ll do what you say today and maybe tomorrow, and by the next day, maybe half. And then by the day after that, by Friday, I’m not doing it at all. So you better show up on Friday to say, ‘Hey, I heard you on Monday, man, you sounded great!’ Then help me break bad habits and set new ones, because we all are creatures of habit when we’re on the radio.

Second thing I would say is: be as specific as possible. It was never helpful to me when someone would say ‘Great show.’ Yeah. Ok, thanks, but that doesn’t mean anything to me.

But, when the market manager or PD says, ‘Yesterday when you interviewed that guy and you asked him this question, oh my god that was fantastic!’ As a talent with ego, I’m assuming he heard the entire show, even though he’s commenting on one thing. But that one thing is much more valuable than just ‘Hey, great show’. And then the third thing I would say is Joe Crummey. I don’t know if you know the name Joe Crummey.

DW: Yes, we’ve never met but we’ve become online friends. I love his work.

DGH: When I was first PD (at KFI), Joe Crummey said something key that I think about all the time when I’m working with talent and from when I was on the radio. He said, ‘When you’re on the radio, you walk a plank every single day and you just hope to God that you don’t fall off.

‘Because, unlike television, unlike Jon Stewart or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert, we don’t have a writer’s room of 22 people sitting behind us thinking of every brilliant word we’re gonna say. You have to mostly do it yourself and mostly do it right off the top of your head. And if you’re on the radio three hours a day, five days a week, you are coming up with 15 hours of original content every week, walking a plank, not making a fool of yourself, not humiliating yourself, and not losing your train of thought.

It’s tough to create that much original content and to keep your train of thought and not humiliate yourself.’

DW: And to do it with no real-time feedback from the audience.

DGH: Right, exactly. You have no idea how it’s landing. That was one of the most valuable things anybody has ever said to me in this business. And to this day, I think about that. When I work with talk show hosts who are on the hook for hours without anything to hide behind, no songs, maybe a newscast at the top of the hour, but not much else I always think, ‘Man, you are walking a plank and it’s all original content.’

I really respect that, I really respect the talent necessary to be able to do what we do without humiliating ourselves, without getting sued, without getting fired, and with our toes dangling off the end of that plank for hours a day, every single day.

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BNM Writers

News/Talk Radio Hosts Need to Remember It’s Ok to Act Your Age

This same strategy can apply to a story that may pre-date your time in the market where you’re hosting your show. Study up, but lean on those who know.

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Professional microphone in radio studio

For many, we all can fall into a groove of trying to be something we’re not. And the audience is bound to sniff you out as inauthentic. The older radio guy wants to seem hip when discussing social media and refers to his account as “Face-Chat” and “You-Book.” Oops. The younger guy wants to pretend he knows everything about the 1980 election, including the myth that Ronald Reagan came from 10 points down in late October to beat Jimmy Carter. You can read about it here.

I bring this up in the wake of last week’s breaking news story surrounding the death of O.J. Simpson. Social media exploded with reactions and hysterical memes, while talk radio re-lived “The Trial of the Century.”

As someone who was six years old during the White Bronco chase and seven years old as the trial unfolded, I have little memory of the trial itself. I remember it, but the day-to-day details are meaningless. As someone interested in historical events, I’ve read plenty about it and watched documentaries, but I wasn’t there. My only memory of it is watching O.J. on the news in my parents’ kitchen.

So, the day after O.J.’s death was announced, I had minimal anecdotal stories to share. And if you’re a younger host, there’s no reason to be embarrassed by this. After all, it was 30 years ago at this point. Now, someone over 55 might think it was 20 years ago, but my dad, pushing 70, believes 1978 was 30 years ago. It was over 45. So, I rest my case. Time is a blur. You have nothing to be ashamed of. 

But at the same time, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

I spent Friday morning discussing how infatuated I was diving deep into YouTube archives, finding old local TV clips in Los Angeles from the Rodney King riots, mentioning New York Times articles I stumbled upon during the trial in 1995, and weaving that into the content of the day. My approach was to be the authority on the topic since that’s the job, but not pretend that I lived through it in any meaningful way.

That’s when I tapped into guests. Gregg Jarrett from Fox News covered the trial for Court TV. His stories were outstanding. On a whim, I reached out to Randy Cross, a former 49ers player who spent two seasons as a teammate with O.J., and he shared insights that only he could share.

Then, we worked from our local angle, with a great story from former Kansas City sports anchor Frank Boal, who talked about the Bruno Magli shoes that were a centerpiece in the trial. Coincidentally, a photo was used from when O.J. Simpson was on Monday Night Football broadcasting a game at Arrowhead Stadium where he was wearing… you guessed it, Bruno Magli shoes.

So, let your experts be experts. And don’t try to trick your audience into being something you’re not. Let them share their stories as well. Several California transplants to the KC area shared incredible stories from their lives. Let them be the stars and have their moment, assuming it’s compelling content.

This same strategy can apply to a story that may pre-date your time in the market where you’re hosting your show. Study up, but lean on those who know, let your audience participate if and when appropriate, and don’t be the know-it-all, especially when it’s obvious you can’t be on the same level as some of those listening.

Your audience will thank you for it because you’re being authentic with them, and that’s what they want. If you lose your authenticity, you’re done. 

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