NEW YORK — CNN turned in disappointing ratings for its wall-to-wall coverage of the Iraqi elections — a setback for the cabler, which had hoped to make inroads against first-place Fox News on a high-profile international story.
CNN pulled out all the stops for its coverage, sending correspondents to Baghdad, Mosul, Damascus in Syria and Dearborn, Mich.
“We’re trying to put as many of our best resources as possible against the story,” CNN U.S. prexy Jon Klein told Daily Variety days before the coverage began. “When we do that, it works out well for us.”
But on Sunday, the day of the election in Iraq, Fox beat CNN in primetime 1.9 million to 718,000 viewers; it consistently doubled CNN’s viewership starting when the polls opened in Iraq and through that evening’s analysis of the story.
CNN experienced a greater lift during the tsunami disaster, in part because its bureaus in the area were able to return the best early pictures of the devastation.
Klein expected the Iraqi elections to be a “milestone” news event that would showcase CNN’s large staff of longtime correspondents in the region.
The elections dominated four days of primetime coverage leading up to the voting and included special “Iraq Votes” programming.
But since the elections were a scheduled event, Fox was able to get its own big-name news personalities to the region, including anchor Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera, eliminating CNN’s advantages.
In primetime in January, CNN averaged 876,00 viewers, up 11% from last year. Fox averaged 1.6 million, up 16%, while MSNBC fell 14% to 301,000 and CNBC plummeted 24% to 126,000 viewers.