Kilar made his comments during his keynote address at Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media and Telecom Conference and apologized after he was called out on Twitter by the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint.
‘It turns out the pandemic is a pretty big part of the news cycle and that’s not going away any time soon,’ Kilar said during the conference.
He continued: ‘If you take a look at the ratings and the performance, it’s going well. I think it’s going well because A. the team at CNN is doing a fantastic job and B. it turns out the pandemic and the way that we can inform and help contextualize the business is really good for ratings.’
Jason Kilar, the CEO of CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia, said at a conference that the COVID-19 pandemic is ‘really good for ratings’
Kilar apologized on Twitter after the Wall Street Journal related his comments to those made by Les Moonves in 2016
WarnerMedia is the parent company of Turner, which is the home to several cable networks including CNN
Flint drew comparisons between Kilar and Les Moonves, the disgraced former chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation who resigned in 2018 after allegations of sexual assault.
Moonves had said during the same conference in 2016, during the presidential election cycle, that Donald Trump ‘may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.’
‘I agree Joe. I would like nothing more than for this pandemic to be well behind us. I mean that with every fiber in my body. I wish I could go back and be more thoughtful about my communication,’ Kilar responded to Flint.
‘I am sorry for the sentence and for uttering it. My apologies. Thx for highlighting it and holding me accountable.’
Most major television outlets suffered ratings declines in 2020 but cable news channels CNN, Fox News and MSNBC were up, Variety reported.
Fox News had its best viewership year ever as numbers went up 43 percent amid the pandemic and election cycle, even gaining viewers in the demographic for adults between the ages of 18 and 49, according to the outlet.
CNN had its most-watched prime time ratings ever in 2020, which soared 83 percent overall and increased 95 percent its demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds.
‘Anyone that is paying attention to the news business through linear television, CNN is killing it. They’re the number one cable news network now and have been since the election,’ Kilar said during the conference.
‘In the fourth quarter, they were the number one cable channel, not even news, cable channel among the demo from 18-54.’
He continued: ‘So we’re leaning into news which ultimately matters more than it ever has before.’
Kilar also apologized on Twitter for other comments he made during the conference while suggesting that the company could offer a cheaper tier of HBO Max, which currently costs $15 per month.
‘It turns out that most people on this planet are not wealthy,’ Kilar said.
‘If we can wake up and use price and be able to kind of invent and do things elegantly through advertising to reduce the price of the service, I think that’s a fantastic thing for fans.’
A critic on Twitter called Kilar out for the comments, slamming the ‘bad impression’ the CEO left after he introduced the new potential new product.
‘I absolutely should have said it differently. I am sorry. I was attempting to communicate that we as a team wake up each day seeking to deliver more value to fans (through lower prices and/or more great stories). Because that matters to everyone, as it should. I am very sorry,’ he responded.
Kilar tweeted on Biden’s inauguration day that he is ‘proud’ of CNN’s news coverage and that the outlet has ‘never been stronger’
He also said ‘CNN is killing it. They’re the number one cable news network now and have been since the election’
Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch also spoke at the conference, where he said Fox News audience was ‘disappointed with the election results’ but suggested the company is turning around the ratings hit it took after the November election.
‘Going forward, if history is any lesson, the main beneficiary of the Trump administration, from a ratings points of view, was MSNBC,’ Murdoch said Thursday at the conference.
‘MSNBC had the biggest lift, relative to where it was before to its peers, throughout the Trump administration. We think that that’s because they’re the loyal opposition. They called out the president when he needed to be called out.’
Murdoch said that Fox News will now see its ratings ‘really improve from here’ as the network plays loyal opposition to the Biden administration for ‘at least the next four years.’
The CEO son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch equated the Fox News dip to those taken by CNN and MSNBC after the 2016 election, The Wrap reported.
Fox News’ total-day and prime-time ratings dropped 13 percent in January 2021, following President Joe Biden’s inauguration after he took over from former President Donald Trump.
CNN dropped 17 percent and MSNBC dropped 10 percent after Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, the outlet reported.
‘We’re seeing tremendous advertising strength since the election,’ Murdoch said.