Ratings, Programming Woes Affect CNN's Upfront AdBuys

Ratings, Programming Woes Affect CNN's Upfront AdBuys

No longer able to compete as a news outlet, left-wing CNN has shifted its focus to documentaries like “The Sixties” and reality entertainment programming like “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.” Overall ratings have continued to tumble at the network, though, and now adbuyers are pushing back and refusing to pay premium advertising prices. 

According to Variety, adbuyers believe “News audiences can be purchased more efficiently elsewhere.” 

Skepticism from buyers – a natural element of this yearly haggle – comes after CNN has reworked its positioning . The network, part of Time Warner”s Turner unit, is relying more heavily in primetime on documentary series and during the rest of the day seeking out stories that help it stand apart from competitors, as it did when it followed the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Doing so, however, has CNN veering slightly from the pitch it has long thrown to Madison Avenue: For years, CNN has portrayed itself as a high-quality source of straight news, one that ought to command a premium. …

Ad buyers have chosen to focus on the price of reaching a CNN viewer. “Turner has sought a very high CPM, and the ratings are off” over the long term, said another ad-buying executive.

As CNN changes its programming, the type of viewer changes. Advertisers apparently see a news watcher as a higher quality viewer than someone who watches a reality show like “Parts Unknown.” Even as CNN’s ratings tumbled, the network could still argue that their viewers were of a higher quality and therefore worth more. 

That’s all changing now, as CNN turns its primetime audience into just another reality channel audience.

In 2011, CNN earned $348 million from advertisers. Last year that number dropped to $320 million.