The television media’s strange, gluttonous relationship with the antics of Donald Trump is more than comical (or sad, depending on your vantage point). It’s also extremely lucrative. Trump—who’s managed over the course of the summer to prove his staying power as a US Republican presidential candidate—pulls in fantastic ratings for cable news networks.
Zignal Labs, a California-based media-monitoring company, told the Wall Street Journal that its records show Trump has been the subject of at least 2,159 CNN reports since he declared his candidacy on June 16. (That translates to 90 days of non-stop coverage if one report were aired every hour, as a Journal editor points out.)
Trump coverage on CNN, as well as on many other news channels, far exceeds that of any other presidential candidate currently in the race. The candidate has received roughly between three to five times that of opponents Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina. Even Jeb Bush, who had the leg up among Republican candidates before Trump’s ascent, is lagging far behind him in cable news media mentions.
For now, networks have proven to be agnostic about whether viewers tune in out of interest or outrage, given the viewership bumps they’ve seen between last summer to this one. CNN, for instance, expects record ratings and ad revenues from the Republican debate tonight (Sept. 16) in Simi Valley, California.
The backlash against ceaseless coverage of Trump, even some by CNN employees, could eventually catch up with the networks. As a former CNN president told the Journal, the networks are walking a “tight rope” and need to avoid being “mesmerized by the spectacle.”