Cable News 2013 New Year’s Resolutions…

It’s that time again. Here are the 2013 Cable News Network Resolutions…resolved in absentia by yours truly…

ICN resolves on behalf of CNN…

- To not succumb to Jeff Zucker’s temptation to dumb down CNN’s hard news brand. There is more to news than Politics…yes. That does not include breaking Entertainment Industry news. Nor does it include an emphasis on taped reality TV style programming, crime docs, or topical movies.

- To decide on a format for mornings before deciding on any talent changes.

- To change the public narrative of what it’s trying to accomplish. Jeff Zucker made a tactical error when, during his unveiling conference call with Phil Kent, he bit on a reporter’s boobytrapped question about primetime and put it out there that CNN’s goal was to be #1 again. That’s the old CNN narrative and it’s a loser because CNN will never be able to match FNC’s primetime ratings, let alone beat them. The new narrative is branding and profitability and why ratings, while important, are not the defining measuring stick of success or failure in a niche market like cable news. I have argued for years that CNN can’t win the perception war in the battle of the cable news networks if the key measuring stick is ratings. That will always favor FNC and MSNBC because the two all but abandon news in primetime and it’s not a fair fight when you pit news against what is essentially echo chamber infotainment for most of their competition’s primetime hours.

- To think “Format first, talent changes second” – Fix your programming before fixing your talent.

- To not get hung up on “name talent” as a panacea, something this network has done too many times in the past. It doesn’t work. Maddow wasn’t a name when she got her show. Even Olbermann wasn’t really a name in cable news before he got his MSNBC show (the second one). O’Reilly and Hannity were basically nobodies to the majority of the country when they joined FNC. See a pattern here? You can develop hit programming without having an all star name attached to it. And, actually, having an all star name tends to raise the stakes and focus everyone’s attention on the show and its immediate success or failure.

ICN resolves on behalf of MSNBC…

- To have an explanation at the ready when the 2013 numbers drop off after the election.

- To finally rid the network of the taped crime programming. MSNBC expanded greatly on the weekends and it has been airing its full primetime lineup on Friday nights including west coast repeats. This isn’t 2006. It’s 2012. MSNBC doesn’t need to fill the hours with tapes crime shows that now generate lower numbers than their primetime programming.

- To not put Ezra Klein, if he should get a show, in primetime…especially at 8pm.

- To start thinking about what it’s going to do with Mornings when Joe and Mika bolt…as everyone in the industry expects them to. Don’t think for a second that CBS wouldn’t drop Charlie, Norah, and Gayle in a heartbeat if it could land those two.

ICN resolves on behalf of FNC…

- To change things up. Every three to five or so years FNC goes through a bunch of programming and talent purges. It’s one way the network has stayed fresh and on top for so long despite using the same tired old gameplan it’s used for the last 13 years. I know, I know…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well things break down eventually because of sameness and age. Look at the Today Show.

- To shrink their graphics. They are too damn big now. Ok, so you made them readable for SD vidwers because you broadcast in SD at 16×9. Well, why are we HD viewers getting punished by SUCH BIG LETTERS? Screw the SD viewers! They should have upgraded to HD by now anyways!

- To cancel the Saturday Business Block – If I want business news with a Fox flavor, I’ll watch FBN. I won’t watch the Saturday Business Block on FNC which isn’t even about business anymore (as it was 11 years ago) as much as it’s about political style bashing. I can’t learn anything about business watching that block now. It’s a holdover relic from a time when News Corp. didn’t have a business channel.

ICN resolves on behalf of Bloomberg TV…

- To get bigger HD penetration. This is a 2012 resolution holdover since I still don’t have Bloomberg in HD on DirecTV.

ICN resolves on behalf of CNBC…

- To slap a muzzle on Rick Santelli and his ilk – I’m sick of “the crazy” breaking out on CNBC the way it has been this year. If I’m watching CNBC it’s because I want business news and analysis, not the freak show shoutfests that have been breaking out there. I would expect disagreement between analysts but we’re talking CNBC talent infighting here. These days the only time CNBC makes news on the media blogs is when one of these spats erupts and there’s viral video of it. That’s not good for CNBC’s reputation.

ICN resolves on behalf of FBN…

- To keep going in the way they’ve been going. Progress was made this year. Let’s not screw it up with bad programming decisions. Yes, re-signing Imus was a long term admission by the network that despite the progress made, it’s still not ready to take on CNBC head to head in the mornings. But momentum has been gained elsewhere, particularly in primetime.

Here are the 2012 resolutions and the results…

ICN resolved on behalf of CNN…

- To find something for Carol Costello to hang her hat on permanently: Success. For the moment. Costello anchors the 9-11 block. Though with Zucker now in and a new broom about to sweep through, who knows what will happen to that shift.

- To stop using next-gen technology as a gimmick when that next-gen technology isn’t ready for TV: Failure. CNN still resorted to idiotic tech stunts for its election coverage, though not nearly as bad as in previous years.

- To give Piers Morgan more of an edge: Failure. Save for his Gun Control crusade, Morgan has still failed to live up to the hype generated by his Twitter account. He’s still playing too much within himself and isn’t the tour de force he could be.

- To stop aping your sister network HLN and airing court TV rubbish: Incomplete. CNN did stop airing HLN court TV rubbish but was that because it decided to stop airing HNL Court-TV rubbish or was it because there was no Court TV rubbish worthy of airing? Only time will tell on that.

ICN resolved on behalf of CNBC…

- To realize that FBN is still a potential threat and not to appear so complacent in its dominance: Incomplete. CNBC is shaking up its primetime but it’s doing so with reality TV crap and not helping its business brand at all. So maybe it’s reacting to FBN now but it’s reacting poorly.

- To stop getting caught flat footed on weekends and holidays when business news breaks suddenly: Incomplete. CNBC has been more pro-active in doing weekend special programming than in years past but it hasn’t put to rest, yet, the theory that its still capable of whiffing on a sudden breaking business news story overseas on a weekend.

ICN resolved on behalf of FBN…

- To dump Don Imus: Well clearly that ain’t happening. Neither is the idea that FBN is a player in business news in the mornings capable of taking CNBC.

ICN resolved on behalf of Bloomberg…

- To get bigger HD penetration: Failure. I’m still seeing it in SD. DirecTV took TruTV to HD this year. Are you telling me that TruTV is more critical TV than Bloomberg?

- To continue to raise its visibility in the media: Incomplete. I’m not sure why, but it seems like the PR push of 2011 did not continue with as much gusto in 2012. It seems like things have plateaued for the moment…

ICN resolves on behalf of MSNBC…

- To not cut any more dayside news hours from its rotation: Incomplete. If the network makes the new afternoon weekend live news extension permanent, then this was a success. If not, it was a failure.

- To rethink how its main set is utilized: Failure. MSNBC now has one of the oldest sets in cable news. It looks old. It’s not very modular. And nobody is apparently doing anything about it.

- To finally dump the Hardball repeat after the election: Failure. Hardball’s repeat lives on…though perhaps could die in 2013 if Ezra Klein gets 7pm.

ICN resolved on behalf of FNC…

- To overhaul the Saturday Business Block: Failure. But it’s too late to save it now. Better to just cancel it outright.

- To have a plan in place for when news breaks late at night and follow it rigorously: Failure. FNC is still one of the most schizoid news channels when it comes to covering breaking news past 8pm.

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16 Responses to “Cable News 2013 New Year’s Resolutions…”

  1. If your resolution was to have AC and Kathy Griffin on CNN during breaking news, you got the win.

  2. FNC’s Graphics:

    I’m sorry, I have to disagree with you forcing HD for all viewers. I really hated that larger than life package that with the Avant Garde font.

    I like their graphics that began in mid 2011 that is minimal but viewable for an SD set. Why some programs are stuck in that horrid 2009 era to this day beats me. FNC had nice gfx a decade ago, and its not laughable. Regardless I’m in my office with a 9″ SD set and I don’t receive HD, and the same set I have are in the basement newsroom at FNC. I don’t know the complete status of their graphics system, but I have to say most of it is based out of a company in Norway, a company that has mixed capital letters, of which has track record of having the worst graphics in the TV medium.

    I digress

    FNC needs to RSS their headlines on their crawl. Stories should go back a decade ago and have just a single sentence, or separate them with the FNC logo. I have no opposition of the crawl, just its ADHD and is cluttered with a story I have to read for 2 minutes because the crawl is going at 60 words a minute.

    For the love of gawd, FNC (AND FBN) needs to go robotic for the studio cameras. It is not 1980 anymore, and there shouldn’t be that many people in a studio for 2013! Robots do a LOT better than humans, and they are more efficient. Align the hipsters running the cameras to master control so there aren’t many “hard breaks” anymore. The O&Os have used robots for over a decade, and they wonder why News Corp needs to be broken up…maybe there isn’t efficiency across all their properties, humm?

    Both FNC and FBN need to invest tripods in the live shots. Its so childish. Stop walking around and trying to emulate if I was there! Gimmie a break! This is something you’d expect from a PEG channel, and I’ve seen better productions on such channels too! CNN for a period of time years ago laid off the tripod, and I’m sorry, I’m a wired guy. Put the field camera down and just stick with the boundaries of the cable!

    Programming: FNC is focusing on “The Five”, its on almost every day, night, weekend. Can I say its “Millionaire” of news talk shows?

    I agree totally on CNN. I don’t like Zucker’s sexism of assuming the female 25-54 demo are ditzy, stay at home and has a triple digit IQ only in the beauty department. The cable biz doesn’t need another s***ty looking packaging and fluff. If Zucker hasn’t learned that at NBCU, well history repeats itself when people don’t learn from their mistakes.

    Bloomberg’s problems is not HD, but their liberal bias that is similar to the Mayor of NY. I’m sick and tired of anti-American anti- capialtism bias on Bloomberg and how they praise the rest of the world on our soil! All the good people at Bloomberg a few years ago are at FBN or one is now at CNBC. They still have a few good people like Crumpton and Bolton, and Hyman, but the other ones are just fruitcakes.

    One of those are the cast at Bloomberg West – a program that needs to be canceled in 2013. When Emily Chang gets back from maternity, its going to be a trainwreck. It is a depressing show if you feel that tablets, the cloud and social media which are going to be proven job killers in 2013. This show needs to be canceled, or Emily gets knocked up again and we get competent subs who know tech. I feel Chang is a hack reporter, because how in the heck can someone win so many regional Emmys in a small period of time?

    I digress

    CNBC: Santelli needs to be demoted. I wouldn’t fire him in the fear that FBN would kill themselves by hiring him.

    CNBC needs to go back to a business news reporting. Second, get rid of the upity Manhattanite format, by redoing the E.C. studios, bring back the full-time duties in Jersey, and get rid of Brian Lee ( the I am so sexy sounding voiceover) because Lee is fluff, and in order for CNBC to have better quality, the I’m so pretty VO needs to be axed. The way CNBC has ruined Englewood Cliffs is just mind boggling.

    Graphics matter in business news, and they need to make the gfx better. A better ticker, a larger and readable one with a non Sans Serif font, get rid of the yuppie abstract colors, Brighten them up for a transition to full HD all day long. “First in Business” is not valid for a network that should had been in native 720p at least 5 years ago. Totally absurd and there is no excuse for 2013 with Comcast having full control for nearly 2 years.

    That is my hopes for 2013

  3. ^ My hope is that you hire an editor, and stop using phrases like “knocked up”.

  4. THIS is (Ob)CNN

  5. I saw today’s show with Griffin. He’s right..it was excruciating, and lasted forever.

  6. I agree , CNN needs to focus on format first, they care way too much about Politics when there are many stories out there , I hope they don’t end up doing their own version of “Lock Up” . CNBC needs to pay attention or they will end up like CNN is now , they need to go Full HD the side bar is so 2010 , maybe they should introduce a business wrap up show in the evenings like “On the Money” a few years ago , or even a simulcast of CNBC asia.

  7. Dumbing down CNN’s hard news brand…so turning CNN into HLN?

  8. My resolution for MSNBC: Get rid of the damn social media crawl and adopt a modern graphics package.

  9. Also, I hope Morning Joe doesn’t go to CBS because that would result in the death of CBS This Morning, which is the best thing to happen to television news in a long time.

  10. One of the cable news channels should figure out a way to clone Sunday Morning on CBS. If you haven’t seen it recently and have tired of Fox & Fluff Weekend or whatever cardboard crap CNN is offering-up, give it a watch during a late Sunday morning breakfast.

  11. @mcclollunsky,

    When CNBC does make that switch to full HD, the sidebar could still be there. I find it useful, and I think it would be fine. I don’t know about you, but do you really need to see Angry Man Santelli in a bigger picture? They can do what the old FBN did, crop the HD to the HD graphics and like in primetime loose the sidebar and you can get the native HD program.

    BTW: CNBC has had their flash video cropped in a widescreen format for a few years now. And the video quality sucks because its cropped improperly.

    @Andy
    I find the MSNBC graphics package “modern” enough, how modern do you mean?

    @Al.

    Look on YouTube from a video from the late 70s, maybe the early 80s of their morning news program you suggest. IIRC It was called “Morning”. As the title suggests, they tried to port Sunday Morning to the other 6 days, and obviously it was a fail, and lead to many other attempts into morning news since.

    I disagree with your “Fox & Fluff Weekend” – it’s a LOT better than the weekday morning editions.

  12. My resolution for you:
    -To change the banner of the site that features the old logos of MSNBC and Headline News, and also include Bloomberg, BBC World News, RT and Al Jazeera.

    -To finally say who’s considered robotic in CNN International. :)

  13. @Steven Sadly, Bloomberg has even more problems behind the scenes (That’s what I heard from Gawker etc.) I predict more (and even shocking departures from BTV (they might even do a Current TV and sell)in 2013-14. Shame. Potential wasted. Maybe there isn’t room for 3 financial networks. Sad.

  14. @Posey Marquis Mak,

    Bloomberg makes a killing on the terminal leases, one would’ve thought that the sales of the terminals would’ve been enough revenue to run a TV operation. The radio (especially Eleven-Three-Oh in NY) operations have really been cut to the bone, not like it once was a decade or two ago (it was just 20 years ago last month when Bloomberg acquired WNEW radio to become an all news station.)

    I really think they did it to themselves when they got rid of the “Information screen” format like 5 years ago and did a multi ticker layout, then in the last couple of years go in a far-left reporting and Anti-American reporting bias. I feel that Margret Brennan’s name needs to be referenced, because on her failed program, she had to make innuendo almost every morning that business world wasn’t all about America, and of course her tone was obviously negative (the leader of the free world mind you!) She just seems to hate America, and you know, its a shame you have to put your personal opinion on a NEWS program. That’s what happens when you learn global views and go globe trotting, you start to feel for people shouldn’t be feeling for. I’ve lost all respect for her, now I know she’s of the Obama smoochers now at CBS News.

    I loved the days back when they were at the Park Ave offices where they have a center-right bias (it made CNBC look left wing even back then!) and focus on reporting. In fact they didn’t do much liveshots outside of their NY newsrooms, until the last few years.

    I don’t know why BTV is falling apart, but I think it could’ve been averted if they didn’t go left to the same exact views of the Bloomberg Administration, even if he isn’t running the company like he used to before being Mayor.

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