CNN garners best ratings in 40 years

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NEW YORK — An extraordinary stretch of news with the coronavirus pandemic and racial reckoning triggered by George Floyd's death has led CNN to its biggest audience for any three-month period in the network's 40-year history.Fox News Channel and MSNBC also had record-setting quarters ending in June, according to the Nielsen company. But CNN's audience increased at a higher pace than its rivals, and it is also seeing strong numbers for its digital operation.

The news is welcome at a network that has been relentlessly attacked for four years by President Donald Trump and his allies, who often mocked CNN as "failing."

"All of our research shows we are the most trusted name in news," Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports and CNN chief executive, said Wednesday. "Others may not believe that, others may scoff at that, the president of the United States makes fun of it, but it's true."

CNN's weekday prime-time audience of 1.95 million was up 120 percent over the same period last year, Nielsen said. Fox News, which has led in the ratings for nearly two decades, had an average of 4.07 million viewers, a 43 percent increase, while MSNBC's count of 2.47 million was up 13 percent from 2019.

They are routinely the three most-watched networks on all of cable TV. For the total day, CNN's viewership was up 119 percent over 2019, Fox jumped by 48% and MSNBC by 34 percent.

"We are a news organization that is built for this kind of time," Zucker said. "The others in this space are political talk channels, and so even when they're talking about these stories, they're talking about the politics of the stories. We're talking about the news of the stories."

CNN has its share of political talk, especially on its increasingly opinionated prime-time lineup of Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon.

But when politics is the dominant story, that plays more to the strength of Fox and MSNBC, said news consultant Andrew Heyward, a former CBC News president. CNN, meanwhile, can tap a wider network of news affiliates in the United States and has a much larger reporting staff overseas, and that has been invaluable for the pandemic and racial stories, he said.

"CNN built its reputation on broad coverage of breaking news," Heyward said.

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