Michael Wolff Gives CNN a Michael Wolff Style Write Up…

Michael Wolff writes in Vanity Fair about CNN and Johnathan Klein. This is the kind of article that will drive the network nuts because it plays fast and loose with reality. Consider this…

There’s almost a point of pride in not competing: last year, CNN ousted Lou Dobbs, the longtime anchor who had become too opinionated—even though he had the network’s highest-rated prime-time show.

Dobbs’ show wasn’t prime-time and Larry King’s show was the highest rated. And there’s this…

And now, because of the network’s failure—the dismal ratings of Campbell Brown at eight, the pushing out of Larry King after 25 years, and the rumored departures of Anderson Cooper and John King—Klein is getting a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake prime time.

Overstating the already overhyped rumors that Cooper or King would leave. Cooper even shot this down in a staff email that leaked out. And this…

Cable has two revenue sources: the fees cable systems pay to carry programming, and the fees advertisers pay to be on the programs. Cable fees average from 5 to 20 cents per subscriber per month, with CNN getting substantially more. CNN’s cable fees remain high in part because it is the respectable news network. A cable operator would be making a politically controversial statement if it carried just Fox and MSNBC. CNN now makes its money by charging cable operators a premium fee to avoid such controversy. Similarly, advertisers want to be on CNN because it is not Fox. To advertise on CNN associates you with respectability—while advertisers on Fox are associated with Bill O’Reilly. Even if you want the Fox audience, also making a CNN buy gives you cover. Dull, bland, worthy, consistent, has a market.

I could spend considerable time about what’s wrong with this paragraph which overstates CNN’s now dwindling “dominance” in subscriber rates, massively understates FNC’s highly lucrative carriage fees getting higher and higher, and most importantly totally ignores FNC closing in on CNN in the CPM arena. This paragraph is central to Wolff’s thesis because Wolff argues that while CNN is dull it still makes a ton of coin, the “dull sells” theory, and implies that nobody else can get that close. That’s flat out wrong and what FNC is now pulling down in revenues shows that to be flat out wrong.

Wolff also makes a claim that Eliot Spitzer was originally going to front a totally different type of program…

Klein’s original idea for replacing Brown in the eight P.M. hour was to do a show with a panel of “investigators”—detectives, prosecutors, tough-guy journalists who would do … investigative journalism. Dramatic, but high-end. One of Klein’s ideas for the panel was Eliot Spitzer, who, albeit disgraced, had made his career as a muckraking attorney general. Spitzer, however, when contacted about this idea by CNN, said he couldn’t possibly investigate anyone without subpoena power. This might have suggested a level of arrogance greater than even that of the cable opinion jockeys. But after Jeff Bewkes had approved hiring the tainted former governor, after the temperature of the Time Warner board had been taken about such a dubious hire, and after the whole idea of the investigative series had been thrown out, Eliot Spitzer, a man who, on top of being one of the most disliked people in America, has no television experience, was given a show.


7 Responses to “Michael Wolff Gives CNN a Michael Wolff Style Write Up…”

  1. I usually like Michael Wolff’s writing but this article (and I read it twice) left me confused as to what his point in writing it was. He offers no suggestions as to where CNN should go from here and can’t seem to make up his mind if Jon Klein is the best thing since sliced bread or the antic****t.
    This paragraph was a good example of what I’m talking about.

    “On the other hand, the fustiness that has contributed to its losing the prime-time war, and thereby, in the minds of the diaspora, ceding broadcast journalism to Fox, is exactly what it has come to sell so profitably.”

    Eh? Editor please.
    The investigative journalism stuff is a somewhat interesting idea, if true, but it isn’t happening and his mentioning it seems to be only an excuse to trash Spitzer; who Wolff obviously dislikes. Maybe that’s where where Rita Cosby was meant to go. 🙂

  2. — while advertisers on Fox are associated with Bill O’Reilly —

    Being ‘associated’ with power and success. Now that’s a heartbreaking possibility. I could see it if he had mentioned Beck, or God forbid Olbermann, but O’Reilly? Sounds like someone failed to kiss and make up.

  3. The “Spitzer was hired for an investigative panel” bit is interesting. It’s a better explanation of how he got a show than any other I’ve heard.

    “Advertisers on Fox are associated..” is just silly. As Laura says (there’s your blatant ‘kissing up’, Sparky), a direct connection to Beck might be dicey, but FNC in general is a popular, mainstream channel. I doubt many advertisers are complaining about the number of eyes reached there.

  4. And the ‘Gold’-people seem quite happy with Beck.

  5. Liddy: That’s the sound…of GOLD! I’d shoot that guy, but he’d catch it in his teeth and spit it back at me.

  6. The best part is when he crumples up the dollar bill and throws it away.

  7. ”Dollars? We don’t need no stinking dollars!”

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