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No Issue is Off Limits For WABC’s Sid Rosenberg

“Imus was a brilliant radio guy, who tutored guys like me and Bernie, yet when you bring him up now all you hear about is Rutgers.”

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For more than a decade, Sid Rosenberg has been a reliable and powerful voice in New York radio. Not one to pigeonhole himself, the sports broadcaster at WFAN and WNEW’s “The Sports Guys”would eventually become co-host of the 77 WABC morning show. There, politics has taken center stage, culminating with former president Donald Trump calling in to Sid and Bernard McGuirk, days after switching from middays in 2018.

“He was glib. He was funny,” Rosenberg told BNM. “He was very good to me and Bernie. He’s known us both for a long time.”

That longstanding relationship played into their questioning as they opted to hurl softballs at the sitting president.

“Were we easy on him? Sure, because he’s a friend,” Rosenberg said.

Such a major get would have seemed unthinkable years earlier, but the natural transition began in Florida a decade earlier. He worked at three all-sports stations in South Florida but started to ease politics into the mix. The pendulum swung away from sports in 2012 when Rosenberg covered the Obama/Romney debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton. 

It was at his last gig—WMEN 640 AM in Palm Beach— Rosenberg created a politics/sports hybrid show, “much to the chagrin of my program directors and the GM.”

Rosenberg was at a crossroads professionally, enjoying sports, but equally passionate about the future of the country. A more wide-ranging show was born using the Don Imus and Howard Stern blueprint.

Of course, talking politics took an expected turn during the Trump years. It all came to a boiling point for broadcasting companies after the January 6, 2021 deadly insurrection at the Capitol.  A mandate was ordered, included at Rosenberg’s Red Apple Media that owns WABC. Hosts were told to no longer spread lies or misinformation on air.

“They didn’t have to do that with me,” Rosenberg said. “I was critical of Donald Trump from the very beginning. A guy like Bernie did need the edict.”

Overall, media have come under scrutiny for its coverage of Trump. When it came to the Capitol rioting and its aftermath, outlets didn’t lose sleep over the violence according to Rosenberg.

Left-leaning cable networks “loved it,” said Rosenberg. “They spent the better part of three and a half years finding new ways to criticize, if not malign, Donald Trump.”  

As for the top conservative voices, such as Sean Hannity, “They didn’t care. They were so angry with the way President Trump was treated and covered,” Rosenberg said. 

While the opinionated Rosenberg admits it was a bad day for Trump, he said, allowing it to define his presidency is akin to what happened to Don Imus.

“He was a brilliant radio guy, who tutored guys like me and Bernie, yet when you bring up Imus now all you talk about is Rutgers,” Rosenberg said.

The Brooklynite, who could be unapologetic on the mic, grew up listening to Stern as a teenager. Rosenberg kept following Stern’s show as he got older and had a family.

He would work with the I-Man years later, on and off, for close to 20 years at WFAN and WABC.

“Both of those guys have influenced me a tremendous amount,” Rosenberg said. “The one thing Imus did teach me was authenticity. He just wanted to make sure each day he was provocative, entertaining, compelling and gave you who he was. That’s what Bernie and I try to do every day. It used to be Howard, but less and less these days, because he’s become very Hollywood.”

As for Imus, who died in the final days of 2020 at age 79, he was also known as a curmudgeon later in life. 

“He was in a bad mood every f***ing day,” Rosenberg recalled. “You couldn’t discern if that was an act or not, but it wasn’t.”

Aside from that drama, little changed to the “Bernie and Sid” show, save for the move to mornings. Behind the scenes, though, was another matter, as Rosenberg had a front-row seat to ownership upheaval.

Cumulus sold WABC in 2020, when John Catsimatidis, the billionaire tycoon, bought the legendary radio station for $12.5 million. The new owner, who runs the Gristedes supermarket chain, made his first foray into media with the vaunted 50,000 watts at 770 on the AM dial. Catsimatidis, though, had been doing a radio show on rival 970 AM WNYM.

The changes from ownership are “night and day,” Rosenberg explained. “They care, let’s start with that.”

Rosenberg, who turned 54 on April 19, contends Cumulus was more focused on “making a couple of bucks,” and he said Mary Berner [President and CEO] was trying to make it worth something it’s not.

Berner would sell off a station “without any hesitation.”

By contrast, Sid speaks to Catsimatidis every day, a relationship that eluded him with Cumulus. Not long after the ink dried on the Red Apple Media takeover of WABC, they put forth a new contract, this time with their morning show. Rosenberg received a multi-year extension.

Aside from securing Rosenberg for the long term, Catsimatidis has used his love of New York City radio to explore a vintage weekend look.

“Cumulus didn’t give a shit. They sold it out—doctor this, lawyer that,” Rosenberg said. 

Bruce Morrow (Cousin Brucie) is back on WABC for a Saturday night oldies show. The station, thereafter, added Tony Orlando for his own spin on the classic hits from decades ago. It’s believed to be his first radio show.

Catsimatidis and company didn’t stop there.

They brought Joe Piscopo on board from 970 AM for a Sunday night Frank Sinatra program. Despite Piscopo’s morning show hosting duties for the Hackensack, NJ, station, Rosenberg has no concern for his job security.

“I don’t give a f**k if you’re Howard Stern, Don Imus, Craig Carton or Mike Francesa,” Rosenberg admitted. “I never look over my shoulder. I don’t think anybody is nearly as good. Joe is a solid talent. He’s good on the air. There’s no question about it. But he ain’t better than me.”

Under Red Apple’s auspices, Dave Labrozzi is the program director. He moved across the hall when WABC was still located above Madison Square Garden in 2019 after Cumulus’ WPLJ was sold. He replaced Craig Schwalb, now director of content integration and operations at WTOP in Washington.

“Dave and I have bashed heads more than I ever did with Craig,” Rosenberg said. “Schwalb was a little easier to convince than Dave. I would say Dave is a little more old school in the way he operates the station, what he expects from his talent.” 

WABC is keeping a close eye on iHeart’s WOR 710 AM, home to Sean Hannity (who originally was part of the TalkRadio 77 WABC team). As of March 2021, WABC trailed WOR, 2.3-1.9, in the Nielsen ratings. While WABC stayed virtually unchanged in the previous six months, a disturbing trend emerged at WOR, which slipped from 3.6 in November to 2.4 at the close of winter holiday book.

But Rosenberg claims his show has “beaten the shit out of WOR lately” with Len Berman and Michael Riedel.

While Rosenberg may not be going anywhere, the station did make an odd programming choice this year by cutting the morning show by 30 minutes. “The Early Show with Juliet Huddy and Frank Morano” was extended from 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sid, though, is part of the lead-in, providing sports and commentary.

“Three and a half hours is a long show anyway,” Rosenberg said.

Plus, cutting into “Bernie and Sid” for the greater good of WABC is fine with him.  

Staying connected to his “first love,” sports, Rosenberg was given a weekend show –Sid Sunday Sports – although it’s been off the air in recent months.

“The summer is here, and I don’t want to spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon while my wife and kids are going to the beach, sitting in a studio on Third Avenue talking baseball,” Rosenberg said.

He expects to resume this show in the fall for football season, “I believe.”

Rosenberg may not be talking baseball, but he did help WABC hire Ed Randall, his former WFAN colleague for his longtime branded ‘Talking Baseball’ Sunday afternoons.

From Randall to Morrow, weekends give listeners and station brass a chance to catch their breath from the heavier topics and news. However, politics is not eliminated from the weekend programming with Jeannie Pirro, Dick Morris, the owner himself, Catsimatidis and Rudy Giuliani, who also hosts a weekday program.

Giuliani made news on April 28 when feds searched and seized evidence from his Manhattan office as part of their investigation. Which begs the question, is it time for WABC to pull the plug on the former mayor?

“I don’t think so,” Rosenberg contended. “Anybody [who] knew, was involved with, let alone, close to Donald Trump, they’re looking to humiliate, embarrass, if not find a way to put him in jail. There’s nothing here. This goes right back again to the Russian hoax, the Ukraine hoax… You take Rudy Giuliani off the air, you’re basically saying he’s guilty, and he’s not.”

Until proof is shown that Giuliani did something illegal, “you don’t take the man off the air. Once you do that you’re saying, ‘he’s toxic.’”

Rosenberg is proud that WABC bosses are “not going to destroy a man’s career over a lie.”

However, Rosenberg does anticipate his former colleague Curtis Sliwa, who left WABC during a mayoral run this year, will be back on the air. Since leaving, Sliwa’s noon-3 p.m. slot has been co-opted by syndicated Charlie Kirk followed by Newsmax early evening star Greg Kelly with a two-hour local show. Kelly is known to New Yorkers for his several years spent on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York.”

Rosenberg, who is making appearances for the Republican candidate, expects Sliwa will win his party’s nomination in the June 22 primary, but “he’ll have difficulty beating Eric Adams [Brooklyn borough president]” in the general election.

Catsimatidis, who briefly talked about his own mayoral run and a possible gubernatorial campaign next year to oppose Governor Andrew Cuomo, maintains a close bond with Sliwa.

“So, I think these guys are kind of keeping it warm,” Rosenberg said.

Where the Guardian Angels founder will find himself for an eventual WABC return remains uncertain, but “that choice, while not solely up to him, will probably be somewhat up to him. If I had to guess,” Rosenberg said.

Harder to fill is the spot previously held by the legendary Rush Limbaugh, who died in February. Dan Bongino, though, could be the “heir-apparent” for conservatives, as Westwood One’s new midday host. However, Premiere Networks hasn’t named a replacement for Limbaugh’s slot, as they air “best of” clips.

“Rush was magnificent. I don’t care if you liked his politics or not,” Rosenberg said. “The guy knew how to do a radio show and that’s the bottom line.”

With the changes on the New York radio landscape, and at WABC itself, Rosenberg remains a constant, spanning more than 20 years on air. He uses that clout to create the best content.

“[Catsimatidis], along with Chad Lopez [Red Apple Media/WABC president] and Dave Labrozzi have given me a tremendous amount of freedom to do the morning show the way I always wanted to.”

BNM Writers

It’s Not a Vaccine Mandate, It’s a Test Mandate

“Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?”

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I feel I must disclose my feelings on Covid-19 before my column this week so everyone knows my bias. 

If you want to take the horse dewormer medicine, Ivermectin, for Covid-19, I DON’T CARE.

If you want to wear a mask in a crowd indoors or out, I DON’T CARE

If you don’t want to get a Covid-19 vaccine, again, I DON’T CARE. 

In terms of full disclosure, I have been vaccinated. As far as I know, I haven’t had Covid-19, and only my dog has had some form of Ivermectin. 

With that out of the way, can we talk about how President Biden’s mandate is being discussed and reported on? This is not a liberal or conservative issue, and it’s not a CNN vs FOX News issue. Most everyone has an opinion on it, yet most don’t care to find out what was actually proposed. Even the White House is misleading folks with its own policy. 

This is not a vaccine mandate, it’s a test mandate. 

President Biden’s policy has made two changes. All federal workers must receive a vaccine. You don’t have to work for the federal government, but if you do, you must be vaccinated. Again, not a mandate. No one is forcing you to work for the federal government. That’s your choice.  

Delta Airlines implemented a policy charging employees $200 if they choose not to be vaccinated. As a result, thousands have received the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid the penalty. That is their choice. 

Schools, public and private universities, hospitals, and companies big and small have made similar rules. If you want to work or attend, you must get a vaccine. Not a vaccine mandate, big difference.

Companies make all sorts of rules, some smart, some dumb. I know a radio station that will not let their on-air hosts talk to the media (dumb). My company policy says, I can’t eat food in the studio (smart). You can agree or disagree with a policy, and if you choose not to follow it, that is your choice. Nobody from the government is going to come to your home, hold you down, and jab a needle in your arm. Yet I’ve heard that said a few hundred times in the last few weeks.

Part two of President Biden’s policy says that if you are a company with over 100 employees, your employees will be required to have a vaccine or get tested weekly to see if they are Covid-19 positive. Again, this is not a vaccine mandate. It’s just a test, once a week. A test mandate, if you will.

Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?   

I talk to neighbors, callers, and friends, and they’re all arguing over something that isn’t happening. Some have gotten really angry and stood defiant. They will not, under any circumstances, be forced to get a vaccine. 

“How about a test?” 

“Wait, what?”  

These are crazy times. We talk past each other, we debate our own set of facts, we get to choose the news we like, and disregard and disqualify the news we don’t. I’m afraid we have crossed some type of rubicon. Everyone is arguing and debating a policy but nobody knows the actual policy.

If you think taking a test to find out if you have a life threatening virus that could harm you, a family member, or a coworker is government overreach, I DON’T CARE. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted by the screaming. But if you are going to argue about it, you should do yourself a favor and know what the policy is before you decide you are for it or against it. 

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BNM Writers

Few Media Outlets Were Brave Enough to #NeverForget Both Sides

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Saturday marked 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. Where they were. How they reacted. What they remember about that treacherous day in America.

Consuming media coverage and memorials over the weekend, there was one very common theme.

Unity. Unofficially the word was said 42,365,789 times this weekend.

Listening to the radio, I heard one newstalk host romanticize about how the entire country came together as one, and he didn’t feel we did the same fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the NFL kicked off on Sunday, both Fox and CBS aired extended memorial video montages. The New York Yankees and New York Mets played the Subway Series and on Saturday wore hats representing the Fire and Police Departments of their city.

Netflix, Hulu and Peacock dropped streaming documentaries.

All of this coverage focused on the heroism, the devastation that destroyed 2,996 families, and the unified aftermath. Stats were dropped about the sales of United States flags hitting all-time highs. The patriotic shirt and bumper stickers industry was booming for months.

Let’s be clear – this aforementioned coverage was extremely important.

The following might be controversial, so I unfortunately feel obligated to include the following disclaimer:

I think 9/11 memorial coverage is necessary. #NeverForget is important. I’ve often thought that we don’t talk enough Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans also died, maybe that’s a generational coverage thing. So, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, we should keep these stories prominent and always celebrate the heroes of that harrowing day.

Now that my stance on 9/11 coverage is very very clear…

We should also talk more about the racist hate-crime filled society we created for Muslims, Arabic speaking Americans, Sikhs, and anyone who appeared middle eastern or had dark brown skin. We should also never forget those innocent people whose lives were extremely affected during the aftermath.

Their stories are important. Acknowledging the ugliness can assist in learning from those mistakes.

Although the coverage wasn’t front page, there were news outlets brave enough to hit on those topics over the weekend. I wanted to take time to highlight them, quoting some excerpts that may be tough to read:

Anita Snow and Noreen Nasir of Associated Press for ABC News: “Sikh entrepreneur Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed at his Arizona gas station four days after the Sept. 11 attacks by a man who declared he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads” and mistook him for an Arab Muslim.”

Sodhi’s brother spoke with Kimmy Yam of NBC News and reflected on the hate crime.

Kiara Alfonseca for ABC News: “Mosques were burned or destroyed and death threats and harassment followed many Muslims in the weeks following the attacks, according to congressional testimony from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011. Some victims were beaten, attacked or held at gunpoint for merely being perceived as Muslim, the organization said.”

Maria Lisignoli of NBC 15 in Madison, WI spoke with a local principal:

“But, you know, as often as you will speak to other Muslim and millennials especially, they feel like we feel like we’ve had to answer for the crimes of other people,” Warsi said.

He says linking the Islamic faith with these attacks was damaging mentally and physically.

“I myself have been discriminated against been a victim to hate crime with physical assault, just because I’m Muslim,” Warsi said.

Dorothy Hastings for PBS: “Since 2001, Muslims have been the second most frequent target for religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the federal hate crime data.”

Newstalk program directors, news directors and journalists should always strive to tell both sides of the story. It’s not the feel-good unified story, but nothing about journalism is easy. The industry isn’t for propaganda.

There are tough truths that need to be told. It’s part of the job.

The stories are important. The coverage is necessary.

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BNM Writers

The Weather Channel Was Go To Outlet for Hurricane Ida Coverage

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City.

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Hurricane Ida continued to wreak havoc on Wednesday, Sep. 1, as the storm that rocked Louisiana the previous weekend unleashed its fury upon the northeast.

The Weather Channel was the primary outlet for Ida coverage. Here was their ratings track as the storm reached New Jersey and New York that evening, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  • 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.391 million viewers; 158,000 adults 25-54
  • 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET: 0.461 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET: 0.348 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
  • 11:00 p.m.-midnight ET: 0.269 million viewers; 100,000 adults 25-54
  • midnight-1:00 a.m. ET: 0.230 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • 1:00-2:00 a.m. ET: 0.198 million viewers; 63,000 adults 25-54

3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park from 8:51-9:51 p.m. ET — the largest amount of rainfall there within a one-hour period on record, a mark previously set just eleven days prior (Aug. 21) by the effects of Hurricane Henri’s storm (1.94 inches). 8.4 inches fell in Newark, New Jersey throughout the entire evening. Over 50 people in the northeast perished due to Ida.

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City. Fox News Channel provided 10-minute special reports in the overnight of late Sep. 1/early Sep. 2:

  • 1:00-1:10 a.m. ET: 0.875 million viewers; 213,000 adults 25-54
  • 2:00-2:11 a.m. ET: 0.692 million viewers; 166,000 adults 25-54
  • 3:00-3:08 a.m. ET: 0.526 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54

CNN’s “Newsroom Live” began at 2 a.m. ET, reporting on Hurricane Ida. It averaged 411,000 viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54 for the hour.

On the following morning of Thursday, Sep. 2, the governors of New Jersey (Phil Murphy) and New York (Kathy Hochul) held separate press conferences addressing the aftermath of Ida. Fox News, averaging 1.6 million total viewers and 265,000 in the 25-54 demo from 10-11 a.m. ET, aired most of these conferences until bailing on them when the topic of climate change was mentioned.

CNN (967,000 viewers/228,000 adults 25-54 from 10-11 a.m. ET) and MSNBC (Murphy: 843,000 viewers/90,000 adults 25-54 from 10:19-10:38 a.m. ET; Hochul: 778,000 viewers/86,000 adults 25-54 from 10:38-11:12 a.m. ET) both aired the Murphy and Hochul press conferences in full.

Here are the cable news averages for August 30-September 5, 2021.

Total Day (August 30-September 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.548 million viewers; 259,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.744 million viewers; 84,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.653 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.247 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.201 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.140 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.096 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (August 30-September 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; September 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.642 million viewers; 434,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.260 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.876 million viewers; 202,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.259 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.218 million viewers; 62,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.199 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.163 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.054 million viewers; 6,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.312 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.130 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.846 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.841 million viewers

5. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.620 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.519 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.506 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.489 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.393 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.317 million viewers

19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.763 million viewers

125. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.199 million viewers

190. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.909 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.778 million adults 25-54

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.654 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.634 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.613 million adults 25-54

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.574 million adults 25-54

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.569 million adults 25-54

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.564 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.552 million adults 25-54

32. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54

71. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.282 million adults 25-54

87. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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