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CNN continued its ratings struggle on Thursday night when the heavily promoted town hall event with former FBI director James Comey failed to help the network’s ongoing viewership issues.
CNN averaged 1.6 million total viewers during the Comey event from 8-9:15 p.m. ET, compared to Fox News' 2.9 million viewers and 1.8 million for MSNBC during the same time period, according to early Nielsen data.
While Comey’s event finished dead last among major cable news networks among total viewers, it managed to double CNN’s dismal prime-time average during the month of April. CNN averaged only 767,000 prime-time viewers last month, behind 14 basic cable networks including Food Network, TLC and the Discovery Channel, while Fox News averaged 2.4 million viewers to top all of basic cable during the same period with MSNBC No. 2, according to TVNewser.
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Thursday’s event marked the second time that CNN has aired a Comey town hall since he was fired from his gig running the FBI. The recent event came only one day after the two-year anniversary of his dismissal by President Trump.
Comey couldn’t dig CNN out of last place during the town hall, but he didn’t make for much of a lead-in, either. During the prime-time hours of 8-11 p.m., CNN averaged 1.4 million viewers compared to 2.9 million for Fox News and 2.1 million for MSNBC.
CNN also finished dead last among the key demographic of adults ages 25-54, averaging 302,000 demo viewers, while FNC averaged 459,000 and MSNBC averaged 351,000 during prime time on Thursday. CNN did, however, narrowly edge MSNBC among the demo from during the town hall from 8-9:15 p.m. ET but returned to last place in the category for the remainder of the evening.
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Anderson Cooper, who moderated the Comey event, was forced to inform CNN viewers about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and Andrew McCabe. The need for such an explainer was mocked by Media Research Center analyst Nicholas Fondacaro.
“[CNN] wouldn't have to give viewers this speedy crash course on who Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are, or Andrew McCabe's misdeeds, if @CNN had actually covered them in any kind of serious manner,” Fondacaro tweeted.
Earlier this week, the audience for a Fox News town hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was 85 percent larger among total viewers than Klobuchar’s April 22 town hall on CNN.
Meanwhile, at the ratings-challenged CNN, more than 100 employees accepted a voluntary buyout; the company aims to pare its headcount as it moves into a luxurious new headquarters in the Hudson Yards area on the West Side of Manhattan.

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