Sunday, February 23, 2014


Piers Morgan's CNN prime-time show has been canceled, and David Carr of The New York Times blames, among other things Morgan's advocacy of gun control:
While I may share his feelings about the need for additional strictures on guns, having grown up in the Midwest, I know that many people come by their guns honestly and hold onto them dearly for sincere reasons.

Mr. Morgan's approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.
Even Morgan himself seems to believe this, according to Carr:
"I'm in danger of being the guy down at the end of the bar who is always going on about the same thing," he said. He added that he was sure there were plenty of people in the heartland angry "about this British guy telling them how to lead their lives and what they should do with their guns."
A few days ago, Variety's Rick Kissell suggested the same explanation for Morgan's ratings woes:
In the end, are guns what killed CNN's "Piers Morgan Live"?

The show, hosted by anti-gun crusader Morgan, continues to struggle in the Nielsens....

Morgan has long been an outspoken critic of U.S. gun laws, but the drumbeat has grown louder in the two years since George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin....

There's no way to quantify how much of a factor the discussion of gun control on "Piers Morgan Live" has contributed to its ratings (which were never all that great to begin with), but the show's numbers have fallen more sharply since it became a frequent subject on the show....
Of course, there is a way to quantify that: compare Morgan's ratings before he became identified with gun controls with his ratings afterward. If you like, you can do that by poring over the ratings posts at TV Newser. You'll see that the Morgan show's ratings were awful all along, and were usually comparable to the awful ratings of CNN's other prime-time shows.

Morgan's show debuted on January 17, 2011. There was a bit of right-wing rage in November 2011 when Morgan criticized Sarah Palin for not contacting Mark Kelly after the shooting of his wife Gabby Giffords. But Morgan really began to be identified with gun control after the December 2012 massacre in Newton. So how were his ratings before these inflection points?

There's a good (if schadenfreudy) summary at, of all places, "Demo" in what follows refers to the 25-54 age demographic, the category of viewers most desirable to advertisers:
On [Morgan's] show number two, [Howard] Stern did indeed score a first place finish for Piers with 551,000 in demo, beating [Sean] Hannity (506,000) for the night. A good start, but the next few weeks would be a harbinger of things to come. Over the next 27 shows, Piers averaged just 228,000 in demo and that number was inflated by CNN's breaking news coverage of the Arab Spring during the month of February.

... During those first 27 shows, Piers came in 3rd or 4th place (out of 4 [cable news channels]) 20 times, or 74% of the time. A terrible start by any measure, but unfortunately for Piers and CNN, this would be as good as it gets. Over the next few years, Piers Morgan Tonight would be a consistent 3rd place finisher and whenever a decent made-for-TV trial landed on CNN Headline News, Piers was a guaranteed last place finish....

In late 2012, Piers had placed third (out of four) in 13 of 14 straight shows before tragedy struck – the Sandy Hook massacre. CNN's breaking news coverage helped lead Piers to another rare first place finish.

Between September 10th, 2012 and November 6th 2012 he placed third or last an astonishing 40 out of 45 times. His only first place finishes came the day Hurricane Sandy hit shore and on election night, which wasn't even him hosting the program, it was CNN's election coverage.

In 2011, another abysmal streak of distant 3rd and last place finishes (18 out of 20 shows) was stopped by the Tsunami in Japan, where CNN’s breaking news coverage lifted Piers to a 1st place on Friday March 11th....

The pattern is clear: very few Americans intentionally watch Piers Morgan....
And please note that CNN as a whole has been in a ratings trough lately: In January 2014, CNN had a quarter fewer viewers than in January 2013.

The gunners want another pelt. They're going to claim that they killed Morgan's show. They didn't. David Carr's other theory is that Morgan is simply too foreign for U.S. audiences:
Old hands in the television news business suggest that there are two things a presenter cannot have: an accent or a beard. Mr. Morgan is clean shaven and handsome enough, but there are tells in his speech -- the way he says the president's name for one thing (Ob-AA-ma) -- that suggest that he is not from around here.
That could be it -- or maybe it's just his personality. (Larry King, in his peculiar way, came off as a regular guy.) Or a combination of all this and maybe, to a small extent, the guns. But it's not just the guns. And I think the biggest problem is that he's on CNN. That's burden enough.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY, 2/26: This is what I'm talking about:
February cable ratings are in -- Piers Morgan may be out at CNN, but what about the rest of the network's primetime, which looked none too good for the month, all losing around half their audience compared to same month last year? CNN's Anderson Cooper at 8 PM dropped 47% February to February in overall audience to average 421,000 viewers, and 46% in the news demo to 127,000 viewers for the month, according to Nielsen. In his defense, Cooper's lead-in, Erin Burnett Outfront, dropped 39% to post an average of 293,000 viewers in February -- CNN's smallest monthly haul in the timeslot in more than two decades -- and slipped 32% in the news demo to 100,000 viewers. Morgan's getting scrubbed from 9 PM at CNN because, for instance, he logged 347,000 viewers for the month -- down 46% -- and 100,000 demo viewers -- down 38%.
So there's nothing special about Morgan's crummy ratings -- this is an across-the-board problem for CNN, a problem that affects hosts who don't take highly visible stands against U.S. gun laws.


Daro said...

Morgan, that effete snob of high-handed manners, all the while having his hands buried in the phone hacking scandal. Friend to the elite, servant of Israel, Do-Gooder for the Good-Going, the insider's lackey's lackey. A dead hand on the tiller of investigation and change. Face like a baby's slapped bottom. International Man of Mystery (why he ever got hired in the first place).

Victor said...

Guns or no guns, he is a boring twit.

It's one thing to be a twit like Larry King, who appealed to a lot of people - it's another thing to be a boring twit.

And guns or no guns, he is a boring twit.

Unknown said...

@Daro and Victor-you both pretty much encapsulate the situation. CNN brought this guy on outta nowhere, people weren't familiar with him, and when they watched him they found little to get excited about.
He simply has no constituency, guns or no guns. I would suggest CNN choose a somewhat familiar face next time. And a little personality wouldn't hurt.