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Middle of the Road and Back of the Pack for CNN in Prime

Politico’s Michael Calderone gets ahead of Monday’s May ratings release with an in-depth story on CNN’s prime time ratings woes.

Since Obama took office, CNN’s prime-time audience has dropped sharply, raising doubts about whether the network’s middle-of-the-road strategy can be effective against more opinionated programming on Fox News and MSNBC.

CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein takes a shot at the competition — in some cases, the much higher-rated competiton — with this statement, “It’s the oldest trick in the book to trot out over-the-top hosts and put them on a cable-news show.” It may be an old trick to Klein, but it’s a trick that viewers seem to like. And viewers = ratings = money. Calderone continues:

Klein, who last year trumpeted CNN’s quarterly win over Fox News in prime-time viewers in the 25-54 demographic preferred by advertisers, now maintains that the nightly block is just a fraction of the daily schedule, and that his network remains committed first and foremost to high-quality journalism.

As for the ratings picture for May – of the 24 weekdays of this ratings period (Friday’s ratings not yet counted) CNN has finished fourth in the prime time A25-54 demo 12 times.

About MSNBC, Calderone writes, “both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have watched their post-Inauguration numbers soften,” but adds, “MSNBC now has bragging rights” as the #2 cable news channel in prime time.

#1 Fox News beat MSNBC and CNN combined last month and that’s expected to happen again this month.

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