CNN ratings in free fall but its bought-and-paid-for airports monopoly goes on

by WorldTribune Staff, July 4, 2019

CNN continues to maintain a monopoly on news at airports throughout the U.S. which is hard to digest given that, on an average day, more people are watching the Food Network than CNN.

Speaking of food, there is a spillover effect as CNN is also in customers’ faces at McDonalds and other fast food troughs and public spaces.

Millions of travelers are forced to watch CNN content at airports across America.

The cable network’s ratings death spiral has seen the outlet President Donald Trump likes to describe as “very fake news” lose 20 percent of its audience in the second quarter of this year. That’s after CNN finished 15th in prime time in the previous quarter.

With only two other cable news outlets as competition, not a single CNN program ranked in the top 20.

“CNN’s prominence at airports is often mocked by critics, who are quick to joke that the network’s only viewers are waiting for a flight,” Fox News media analyst Brian Flood wrote.

That’s because, at airports, CNN is numero uno. A CNN Airport media kit says 323 million people view CNN Airport on an annual basis at the 2,400-plus gates throughout the country that carry the channel.

“Airports feel like a lesser version of hell with dirty seats, overpriced food and propaganda posing as news on CNN,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said last month.

Trip Savvy recently listed the 25 busiest airports in America and 20 of them are listed as airports participating in CNN Airport.

The network’s airport presence is facing new scrutiny, though, since its hard turn to the left, Flood noted.

“Critics are now asking if busy travelers should be subjected to CNN’s increasingly ideological programming — at gates, bars, food courts and baggage claims — which can include on-screen chyrons or subtitles that gleefully mock President Trump,” Flood wrote. “Many travelers have even taken to Twitter and started online petitions to urge airports to change the channel.”

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News that CNN has become more partisan than MSNBC since Trump moved into the White House and travelers should have the option of not watching the network.

“How are airports justifying the idea of bombarding captive viewers with content many of them oppose? Sadly, almost any outlet is fairer now than CNN,” Gainor said.

So what is the main reason CNN is forced on air travelers? Of course — money.

CNN pays airports to keep the fake news on, and many travel hubs even have agreements in which CNN pays for their TVs and infrastructure.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that airports also receive “up to six minutes each hour to promote the airport or local attractions” as part of the deal.

“CNN Airport covers the costs related to the TVs and related infrastructure, provides programming specifically geared for airports, and pays us for the opportunity to be in our facility,” a representative from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International said, while Miami International’s spokesperson pointed Fox News to a document proving that CNN is willing to pay the most.

“Long-term contracts typically give CNN the ability to curate content seen by travelers whether they like it or not,” Flood wrote. “The eight-year contract that was signed in 2016 promises Miami International Airport ‘a maximum annual guarantee of $150,000’ that may be adjusted annually to ensure the deal is on par with similar airports.”

Stu Bykofsky wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer that “while you seem to be watching CNN, and sometimes you are, there are also departures from the main feed, including original programming and commercials that are customized for the air traveler. The CNN Airport Network has three of its own reporters and its own control room in Atlanta.”

And, Bykofsky added, “The airport news service filters the news. You will never see a newsworthy air disaster on an airport screen, even if such a report is being carried by CNN. The airport operation runs on a 10-second delay, which allows it to edit on the fly to block ‘bad’ airline news from passengers who might be upset by it. The network usually covers banned news by throwing in a quick weather report or other filler.”

The average viewing time per airport is 53 minutes, says Alison Hashimoto, vice president of programming. “We have a very broad audience, people from 3 to 93,” she says, and research shows “people like a variety of content.”

Hashimoto added: “People have their right to any opinion, and at CNN we stand by all the reporting that is going on every day. CNN is a very trusted news source.” Hashimoto pointed to a Pew Research poll that found CNN “most trusted” among the networks. The poll was from 2014.

San Francisco International Airport told Fox News it has informed CNN that the relationship will be terminated next month when the existing contract expires, pointing to improved mobile devices and free airport Wi-Fi that allow travelers to curate their own content as the primary reason.

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