HLN Leads the Way in coverage of the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial
The $50 million defamation trial between the formerly wedded actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began in mid-April but captured more national attention during the week of April 18 when Depp took the witness stand. The case was initiated by a 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece written by Heard that alleged domestic violence by Depp, causing (according to Depp) to lose out on major film roles including a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel that was in the works.
The cable network HLN has offered extensive coverage of the Depp v. Heard trial, airing in the time periods that featured Depp’s testimony on Apr. 20-21 live from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern. The first day, on Apr. 20, averaged just 101,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. But Depp’s second day on the stand (on Apr. 21), perked the audience up to 186,000 viewers; narrowing it to the noon-1 p.m. ET hour, HLN drew 233,000 total viewers – as indicated in the averages below, above what the network normally draws.
HLN’s semi-nightly special report “War Over Words”, which recaps the day’s events of Depp v. Heard, debuted on Apr. 14 with 177,000 viewers. Subsequent editions on Apr. 19-21 at 9 p.m. Eastern (131,000; 109,000; and 213,000 respectively) actually attracted less viewers than its midnight rebroadcasts (171,000; 143,000; and 224,000 respectively).
Fox News Channel also broke in to its regular midday programming on Apr. 21 to air Depp’s testimony, (albeit for only fifteen minutes: 11:36-11:44 a.m. ET, then 12:26-12:33 p.m. ET) delivering 1.67 million total viewers and 288,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. CNN and MSNBC had also aired portions of the Depp-Heard trial throughout the week, but Nielsen did not specify their coverage in its listings.
The trial is set to continue thru the end of May with testimonies to soon come from Heard (who countersued Depp) herself as well as from actors James Franco and Paul Bettany. Tesla and future Twitter owner Elon Musk, who dated Heard shortly after her breakup from Depp, had been on the list of potential witnesses but as of Apr. 28, is not slated to appear on the stand.
Cable news averages for April 18-24, 2022:
Total Day (April 18-24 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.478 million viewers; 242,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.670 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.548 million viewers; 120,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.183 million viewers; 55,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.136 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.128 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.118 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.108 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (April 18-23 @ 8-11 p.m.; April 24 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.281 million viewers; 360,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.126 million viewers; 123,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.660 million viewers; 159,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.191 million viewers; 56,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.169 million viewers; 53,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.167 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.151 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.050 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.045 million viewers; 7,000 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, Wed. 4/20/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.525 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.511 million viewers
3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/18/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.408 million viewers
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.405 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/19/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.341 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/19/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.328 million viewers
7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.274 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.272 million viewers
9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/18/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.231 million viewers
10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/22/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.930 million viewers
27. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 4/21/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.164 million viewers
163. CNN Films “Navalny” (CNN, Sun. 4/24/2022 9:00 PM, 120 min.) 0.881 million viewers
173. Real Time With Bill Maher “597” (HBO, Fri. 4/22/2022 10:01 PM, 56 min.) 0.841 million viewers
• The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 4/19/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.410 million viewers
• Forensic Files “Shoot To Thrill” (HLN, late Fri. 4/22/2022 2:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.344 million viewers
• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7211” (TBS, Thu. 4/21/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.214 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top CNN, MSNBC, HBO and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/20/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.619 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/19/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.581 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/18/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.554 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.551 million adults 25-54
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/22/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.506 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.493 million adults 25-54
7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.473 million adults 25-54
8. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/18/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.465 million adults 25-54
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 4/21/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.461 million adults 25-54
10. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/18/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.450 million adults 25-54
81. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 4/21/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.247 million adults 25-54
90. The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN, Wed. 4/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.228 million adults 25-54
147. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 4/19/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.165 million adults 25-54
189. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 4/22/2022 10:01 PM, 56 min.) 0.142 million adults 25-54
207. Forensic Files “Shoot To Thrill” (HLN, late Fri. 4/22/2022 2:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.135 million adults 25-54
• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7211” (TBS, Thu. 4/21/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.069 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/
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The Only Path Forward For News Radio is Strong Personalities
Radio’s competitive advantage remains its people. And when it comes to personality, no format owns that right now more so than News/Talk
If radio wants to keep up, personality has to be the way. The format of choice is irrelevant, but personality has to be the biggest asset for the format and station.
It’s something I’ve written about before in this column, but when it gets reinforced by iHeart CEO Bob Pittman, it’s worth mentioning again.
In a great conversation with Talkers’ Michael Harrison, Pittman pointed out that “25% of iHeart’s stations do not play music”, and that more and more shows on the company’s music stations are “actually talk shows that play little or no music at all.”
Then came the best line of the conversation, when Pittman said, “Even on our music stations, you find us moving much more towards heavier personalities, because as we begin to say, If somebody just wanted music, they’ve got a lot of places to go. We’re probably not their best option, if they just want to dig through music. If they want somebody to keep them company, and hang out with them, and be their friend, and be an informed friend, and connect with them, there’s no better place. So we’re very committed to it.”
That’s it right there.
Radio’s competitive advantage is being a friend (ideally local), while using personality-driven content to develop that relationship with the listener to then drive listening occasions.
As has been discussed and addressed for years, music radio simply can’t compete with Spotify, Amazon Music, etc. if your goal is to listen to your music at the exact time that you want it.
Radio’s competitive advantage remains its people. And when it comes to personality, no format owns that right now more so than news/talk, where the strongest opinions and deepest connections often exist. That’s backed up by the Time Spent Listening for the format, which leads the way in many markets.
In many ways, news/talk is the best — and most exciting — place to be right now in the business, and none of that has to do with what is shaping up to be a fascinating 2024 election cycle. But rather because the industry’s biggest advantage to maintaining and growing its audience is its personalities, so if you’re already in the talk format, you’re ahead of the game. And then if you’re good, you’re a highly valuable asset.
As Pittman also noted in his conversation with Harrison, “For the first time ever, the radio business is bigger than the TV business, in terms of audience from 18 to 49 [year olds].”
National coastal media won’t write about that, because too many of them aren’t everyday American consumers. However, the data doesn’t lie. Radio is beating TV in a key demo and the leaders in the industry know that personality-driven content is their key to future success. That’s a great combination for those of us working in the business.
Granted, as we all know, it’s not all roses and sunshine. These are still tough times with continuing competition in the ad space and a soft 2023 shaping up.
However, the show must go on.
And as radio strategically prepares itself for not just the rest of this year, but the next five to ten years, there are plenty of goals that need to be achieved, but if growing and developing personalities is at the top of the list, that’s a win for the industry and an even bigger win for the news/talk format.
Pete Mundo is the morning show host and program director for KCMO in Kansas City. Previously, he was a fill-in host nationally on FOX News Radio and CBS Sports Radio, while anchoring for WFAN, WCBS News Radio 880, and Bloomberg Radio. Pete was also the sports and news director for Omni Media Group at K-1O1/Z-92 in Woodward, Oklahoma. He’s also the owner of the Big 12-focused digital media outlet Heartland College Sports. To interact, find him on Twitter @PeteMundo.
If CNN is For Sale, Here Are 5 Potential Buyers
CNN can’t survive as a “both sides” network, as a Fox News lite, or as a leftist network. It needs to be the network that upholds the truth. These companies would align with that method of thinking.
It’s hard to run a cable news network like CNN these days. Just look at NewsNation. It was founded on the principle of being the first centrist cable news network to come into existence in years. But over the past couple of months, the network has peddled by coming from a slightly right-of-center angle with headlines. They’ve tried to steal left-of-center viewers from CNN with the hiring of Chris Cuomo. And now they’re literally going wall-to-wall with coverage of UFOs. I’m not even making that up.
In a world where a big chunk of its denizens believes the truth is a maybe while the other half doesn’t pay attention to the news unless it is bite-sized, does it still make sense to own a cable news network? Given the turmoil Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zazlav has faced lately with CNN it may not be for him.
The company was forced to let go of CNN CEO Chris Licht this week after a scathing profile from The Atlantic that went behind the scenes into how Licht operated the network post-Jeff Zucker. It was a circus, to say the least. After reading the profile though, you still come away feeling bad for Licht while considering the fact that there is a hand that might have been puppeteering him along the way that was used to having control over everyone.
Zazlav comes from a part of cable where it is necessary to operate like a dictatorship because the formula has proven to work with Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, etc…and because the shows that air on these networks create their own warped reality to spit out for thirsty reality consumers who want it the way it is served.
It’s impossible to have this kind of culture in cable news where the personalities aren’t really the star of the network — the news and facts are and they can’t be warped to fit all interested parties. They just have to be true whether it benefits one side or the other. The truth is the truth.
There are new ways to tell stories and there’s new technology you can use to tell those stories but at the end of the day, telling stories also has the same formula as it always has and can’t be changed.
Remarkably, Don Lemon comes away from Licht’s profile looking the most intelligent when he says that many critics of CNN like Zazlav are committed to Monday morning quarterbacking. CNN went a little too hard on various things happening in the Trump administration too many times, but at the end of the day, it was the job of journalists to hold politicians accountable to the truth just like it has been since the founding of television news.
This lack of realization on Zazlav’s part shows that CNN probably doesn’t belong in the same company as Warner Bros. Discovery. The cultures of Discovery and CNN clearly don’t align. Axios has already reported that because of the low ad market, cord-cutting, slumping ratings, and the run-up to the election having not started yet, WBD doesn’t plan on selling CNN any time soon. It also should be noted that CNN still makes almost $800 million a year for WBD so it is not the big loss of an asset that many in the media would make you think it is.
At the same time, unless Zazlav decides to change his mindset, he needs to sell before this situation becomes unmanageable. CNN can’t survive as a “both sides” network, as a Fox News lite, or as a leftist network. It needs to be the network that upholds democracy and the truth. These companies would align with that method of thinking.
The Mickey Mouse Club owns the news organization that already has the most trust among conservatives on television besides Fox News (ABC News), so they would help legitimize CNN’s mission of garnering more conservatives.
CNN’s library of content would bolster its digital platforms and provide an avenue to create new documentaries and films. ABC News’ own extracurricular projects would be on a platform that has consistent reach with the audience they’re seeking and wouldn’t get lost in the clouds like it currently does on Hulu.
National Geographic could move its content to CNN and HLN and help Disney get rid of one less cable network (NatGeo Channel) that doesn’t generate revenue.
CNN already has the largest news organization in the world. Their addition would bring NBC over the top. NBC’s ability to promote news offerings on Peacock would get some much-needed help as well since CNN has the number one digital news website in the United States.
Peacock would also be able to add CNN’s library to its app giving viewers who crave live news and sports another reason to subscribe to the app.
Regulatory issues may prevail due to past rulings by the federal government but this may have a chance to go through if the government believes the internet and streaming and the fragmentation of television has created enough competition for a CNN/MSNBC combo to not be too powerful.
The Emerson Collective
In a stroke of sheer awkwardness, could the owners of The Atlantic be contenders? Laurene Powell Jobs has constantly spoken about how much she believes journalism affects the balance of our society.
CNN, despite its ratings drag, still plays a vital role in shaping what we talk about as a society. Jobs’ causes like social justice reform, immigration reform, and the environment might get more attention from the general populous on a platform like CNN
The Washington Post or New York Times
Both entities were hand-in-hand with CNN reporting on the latest developments involving the Trump administration and both also faced public backlash about what they deemed as important with a Trump admin vs. a regular administration.
They all share the same mission and journalism ethos and, in the case of WaPo, have a very wealthy backer who could fund a potential deal.
The media mogul has become more deeply involved with the industry than he ever was before. He has a stake in the sports RSNs that are currently failing, he owns The Weather Channel — the most trusted name in news right now which is a remarkable feat to achieve in an era where so many deny climate change and he’s in the market to buy more.
CNN being black-owned could quell the accusations of the network becoming white-washed. A partnership with The Weather Channel bolsters coverage of climate change for the cable network.
And for Byron Allen, CNN gives him a seat on the table when it comes to power and influence in the worlds of Wall Street and Congress.
Jessie Karangu is a weekly columnist for BNM, and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for news and sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He also previously wrote a weekly column for our sports media brand, Barrett Sports Media. Jessie can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
What Chris Licht Got Right, and Wrong, During His CNN Tenure
Chris Licht faced an impossible mission of improving ratings without Donald Trump and with a staff he alienated.
The departure of Chris Licht from CNN was abrupt but expected after a string of missteps. His criticism of his predecessor Jeff Zucker spilled into criticisms of the network’s coverage of Donald Trump and the Covid pandemic, which undercut his staff. Journalists who stood up to conspiracy theories and election falsehoods from the very top felt betrayed.
I’ve known Chris for 30 years, when he served as an associate producer at a KNBC/CNBC for a daily half-hour program centered on the O.J. Simpson trial. Later, we were colleagues at NBC and kept in touch while he was at CBS and I was at ABC. He is whip-smart, congenial, worked well with big talents like Joe Scarborough, Charlie Rose, and Gayle King, and, until now, had a stellar track record.
And in his latest and biggest post — despite being put in an impossible position — did some things right, which I will highlight in a moment.
But first that impossible position. His new bosses at Warner Bros. Discovery wanted a restructuring and high ratings. They insisted on less calling out of misinformation and more “both sidesism”. So Licht had to derail the CNN train and then try to lift it back on the ratings track. No small job. Especially in a news climate that is in decline.
All the cable networks — who depended upon Donald Trump’s unpredictable, often treasonous and dangerous style — have suffered ratings decline. Fox numbers are down and so is MSNBC. The viewing public no longer has to tune in every minute of the day to see what the President is going to do or say. Life has largely returned to normal for most people.
So CNN, which could once depend upon airing and then fact-checking Trump’s latest absurdity, had to find new content.
Licht’s decision to emphasize down-the-middle news gathering seemed like a solid response to life without a bombastic — some say irrational — President.
Just cover the news, at which CNN is great. It’s the first place to turn during a mass shooting, a war, or natural disaster. But those are inconsistent events and cannot be depended upon for steady ratings. That’s the environment Licht stepped into.
He reacted with some good moves. His midday CNN News Central program, 3 hours of straight news, positions itself well to cover breaking news. It’s followed by Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer, also emphasizing news coverage.
However, unfortunately, the list of mistakes is a lot longer. Starting with Don Lemon. His “whole thing” in primetime was to be provocative and with a strong progressive bent. Licht attempted to turn Lemon into what he is not, an easy-to-watch, not opinionated host in the morning. A broadcast that was supposed to keynote the Licht agenda blew up in months. Lemon had an opinion on everything and could not get along with his co-hosts, which in morning TV is critical. The all-important chemistry was not there.
His meeting with Republican politicians on Capitol Hill to invite them back to CNN sent a message that they would no longer be challenged for disinformation. And Licht balanced the commentary panels on CNN with GOP election deniers who shouted over questions they could not answer, in turn sticking to talking points. A move that did little to attract viewers from Fox, and instead drove away legacy CNN viewers accustomed to progressive analysis and Republicans who respected opposite opinions.
Next, his attempt to normalize Donald Trump with a CNN Town Hall, somehow expecting the old rules of decorum would work became a disaster. Trump has to be covered. 30% of the electorate supports him, as do nearly 50% of Republicans. But a live Trump supporter audience overwhelmed Kaitlan Collins who was drenched by a firehouse of lies and deception.
And finally, there was Licht’s decision to make his criticisms of staff and their former coverage public in The Atlantic. A profile that made his gym trainer appear to be his top adviser.
To sum up: Chris Licht faced an impossible mission of improving ratings without Donald Trump and with a staff he alienated.
It was an opportunity wasted and a good man self-defeated.
Jim Avila serves as a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. An Award-winning journalist with four decades of reporting and anchoring experience, Jim has served as Senior National Correspondent, 20/20 Correspondent, and White House Correspondent for ABC News. Prior to his time with ABC, he spent a decade with NBC News, and worked locally in Los Angeles and Chicago for KNBC, and WBBM. He can be found on Twitter @JimAvilaABC.
May 18, 2022 at 10:24 pm
Amber is a liar! She will say anything to ruin Johnny’s career & take all his money as she has already done. She needs to live her life, leave Johnny alone, & go seek help!