CNN Should Save Full-Page Ads Mocking Rival After Winning Gold, Not Silver
Way back when in early 2013, the cable news race looked decidedly different — at least when it came to silver and bronze medalists. MSNBC was a solid second, CNN lagging along in third and even fourth behind its sister station, HLN.
At the time, MSNBC President Phil Griffin felt he had the kind of momentum following the 2012 re-election of President Obama to openly declare first-place Fox “Loserville” while optimistically predicting his network would be top dog in cable news by the end of the year.
So while I commended Mr. Griffin back then for thinking boldly out loud in an effort to push his troops even harder to accomplish the once-unthinkable, I also cautioned that he might be better served looking in the rearview mirror at CNN’s hiring of Jeff Zucker as its new president. Zucker came to the table hungry with big ideas (more taped programming via the likes of Anthony Bourdain and docuseries like The Sixties) and the big pockets of Time Warner for a talent upgrade (signing seemingly half of ABC’s talent like Jake Tapper, John Berman, Chris Cuomo, the still-MIA Bill Weir, Rachel Nichols, etc.), which drew me to the conclusion that CNN would pass MSNBC before MSNBC would even remotely approach Fox.
In the same year, the prediction came to fruition, with CNN beating MSNBC (albeit barely) in the key 25-54 demo (the only ratings that matter to any cable news network). In 2014, the gap widened significantly despite Ferguson and the midterms allegedly being in MSNBC’s sweet spot (racial tension and political races). Simply put, MSNBC doesn’t have the overall talent nor bench to make it a fair fight, and its echo-chamber narrative approach for most of the day and primetime isn’t what even many progressives would tell you makes for compelling television.
All of that said, imagine this scenario: The Seattle Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl Champs in defeating the New England Patriots 45-21. But the very next day, the Pats decide to open up a full-page ad that is also tweeted out by its media/PR team as hot news which mocks the Indianapolis Colts for beating them in the Super Bowl semifinal known as the AFC Championship Game. Headline: “SORRY COLTS. YOU’RE ‘LUCK’ HAS RUN OUT. WE’RE #2! WE’RE #2! PATRIOTS BEAT ANDREW LUCK AND INDY FOR 4TH CONSECUTIVE TIME.”
Well, that’s what CNN decided to do in today’s New York Times by mocking MSNBC’s Morning Joe for falling into fourth place in the demo and third in total viewers with a costly full-page ad. Not mentioned, of course, is Fox’s morning show (Fox & Friends) invariably more than doubling up New Day in the demo since the CNN show debuted 19 months ago.
So should CNN and New Day gloat? If it goes down in a monthly, quarterly and annual press release, that’s understandable and happens all the time. And yes, the show has improved from a chemistry perspective since rightly making the switch to Alisyn Camerota, a former F&F co-host for nearly a decade. But taking out a full-page ad in a major newspaper to celebrate a silver medal, a distant second, to taunt a network that is struggling mightily across the board?
Good for the ego (Remember, Zucker once ran NBC Universal, which obviously includes MSNBC), good for morale (maybe, depending on one’s standards/ultimate objectives), but an end-zone dance in the Times for winning the consolation game? Well…
Either way, it’s always entertaining from a media analysis perspective to see some trash talking between rivals.
But next time, I’d save the full page gloat ad for a becoming the beaming bride of cable news — not the bridesmaid.
>> Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org