Donald Trump has been elected president, but the big winner this election was the media.
It's hard to see how Trump's victory could've happened without the unprecedented free media he received -- nearly $3 billion through April, according to one estimate.
And networks were eager to do it, with the increased viewership he brought.
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," CBS president Leslie Moonves said of Trump's candidacy. "What can I say?... The money's rolling in, and this is fun."
While the media at large benefited from increased ratings and clicks from Trump's run, CNN led the way.
From the moment Trump announced in June -- calling Mexicans criminals and rapists -- CNN provided him with disproportionate airtime.
"Honestly, I think I get better press from CNN than I do Fox," Trump told Fox in December. "I don't know why."
CNN president Jeff Zucker said the coverage was appropriate since "the front-runner always merits the most amount of attention." But CNN's warped coverage started from the get-go, well before Trump attained the top Republican spot, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Things were bleak at CNN before the campaign, with Wall Street analysts questioning whether there was even a need for the network.
Wall Street's not asking that anymore.
CNN is on track to post a 2016 profit of nearly $1 billion.
"This is the best year in the history of cable news," Zucker recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "I think CNN has outshined everybody."
AT&T even highlighted CNN in announcing its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, CNN's parent company. (The deal must receive regulatory approval, which Trump has vowed to block; Trump's opposition comes on the heels of CNN's switch to more critical reporting on Trump during the general election.)
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