CNN = Canned Not News?

Capital New York’s Alex Weprin writes about increased efforts to add more non-news programming, a lot of it tape, to its lineup…

CNN is planning a substantial investment in new programming, with a heavy emphasis on acquiring unscripted shows by outside producers in the vein of “Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown” and films like “Blackfish.”

The strategy, which is now being touted to analysts and investors, will hamper CNN’s revenue but is meant to shore up its viewership in key demographics and reduce its dependence on coverage of big breaking news stories to attract viewers and advertisers.

As a start, Bourdain may be getting a CNN talk show on top of his Sunday evening “Parts Unknown” program.

And this…

For now, the investment in acquired programming bodes well for Zucker, who took over CNN earlier this year. The “multi-year” timeframe for revenue growth mentioned on the call suggests that Zucker will not be going anywhere for quite some time.

But the acquired programming also creates some uncertainty for CNN staff. Bourdain and Spurlock’s programs are not actually produced by CNN, but rather by outside production companies. The more hours of CNN programming that these acquired programs fill, the less need there may be down the line for some in-house staff, a possibility not lost on employees there.

I’ll say. The implications for CNN primetime, where one would assume a lot of this programming will land (but also on weekends ala MSNBC until recently). are profound. If CNN adds more tape to prime, that means less need for staff since the network won’t want its people sitting around twiddling their thumbs while tape runs. The danger is the potential impact of CNN to cover breaking news as well as it used to because it may not have the staff around to do it like it used to.

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11 Responses to “CNN = Canned Not News?”

  1. Bourdain’s show is on Sunday night? Right. And Sunday evening, and Sunday afternoon, and Saturday..

  2. Cable News
    June 1, 1980 – December 31, 2013
    RIP

  3. CNN’s starting to look like the old MSNBC.

  4. Sounds like CNN has given up on doing primetime news and political analysis; except for big breaking news and election coverage in favor of other types of programing. It’s a smart move if you don’t want or can’t do opinion political shows like FNC and MSNBC. Good luck with that.

    The Bourdain talk show is intriguing to me. I’ve watched a lot of his travel/food shows and his POV is distinct, to say the least. It reminds me of how the Alec Baldwin Show has turned out. I watch because it’s not like most talk shows and you don’t know where it’s going.

  5. ^^^Neither do MSNBC or Baldwin…

  6. Despite how I think Zucker has watered down CNN further than it already has been, I think everyone’s stance on this issue is wrong.

    If cnn can’t produce Bourdian quality shows like Bourdian’s unit can than why not outsource it? If you have to make cut backs, to be CNN you have to secure funding for dayside and in case now for breaking news where a news cycle may go into a weekend and you have to extend the budget. The airing of CNN films say randomly on a Thursday night like Blackfish only helps both numbers and brings viewers into sample CNN, if not see the promos during the commercials. i think it helps bolster to have these indie docs and provides a needed culture on cable beyond politics. This isn’t the issue with Zucker’s leadership as it is with programming decisions on dayside and regular coverage. I wish CNN or some company produced for them iconoclasts on IFC or picked up Vangaurd from Current. CNN should offer highly produced docs and content like that bourdian quality in addition to breaking news. Also, these indie companies have more of a passion to produce better stuff than Time Warner does with it’s corporate culture.

    This is the same reason MSNBC is no longer in the breaking news business, because they have the same if not inverted model. All of the money and resources is in talk radio style programming, and operationally now it’s hard to over run a budget with the talent they have to pay. It’s clearly an ideological model yea, but it’s also too expensive to change suit and go live. The Newtown and Boston Marathon coverage is the perfect examples. While CNN might have been overkill, they still had a budget to go over the weekend with their top people, MSNBC’s here and their coverage. Even if they wanted to cover it past M-F they just can’t.

    So by outsourcing CNN made cuts but retains a budget for dayside, while acquiring and showing better produced docs. I don’t see what’s wrong with it. But someone needs to teach him how to run dayside asap.

  7. icemannyr Says:

    CNN has already made changes. On Thursday’s they are airing taped specials 9pm-11pm.
    They have also replaced the rebroadcast of Out Front with Anthony Bourdain on Friday’s at 11pm.

  8. That Bourdain show was reasonably interesting, but it’s on ALL WEEKEND. Now it’s just annoying.

  9. the all killer whale channel.

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