Spin Control…

Broadcasting & CAble’s Marissa Guthrie has CNN’s Bart Feder spinning like a top

Parker/Spitzer – the first chapter of CNN’s primetime makeover – bowed Monday to a barrage of excoriating reviews:

Time: “vapid”

Baltimore Sun: “a load of obnoxious, self-important noise”

The Guardian: “wretchedly unwatchable”

St. Petersburg Times: “confused,” “odd and ill-focused”

New York Times: “hard to watch”

Bart Feder, senior VP of programming at CNN/US, is taking the long view.

“Critics do what critics do and their aim is to get page views and sell newspapers,” he told B&C on Friday.

I can’t speak for the others but not me. I have nothing to sell and I don’t make a dime off the blog so the panning of Parker Spitzer’s opening night disaster by me has nothing to do with that. It’s just makes it easier to digest the notion that critics are out to get you because that’s their thing than it is to digest the possibility that the show really was that painful Monday night. We call that rationalizing.

“We honestly believe that as people sample the show they’ll fine it refreshing and interesting and they’ll come back. Cable shows don’t premiere with huge audiences,” he says. “They grow over time. And that’s been true of our competitors and that will be true for us too.”

That’s both true and not true. Some shows do premiere with big numbers and then tail off into obscurity and get cancelled. The shows that don’t get big numbers usually aren’t heavily promoted in advance. Countdown with Keith Olbermann falls into the latter category because it was kind of a soft launch and it took years for it to “find itself” and become the show that’s now so loved and reviled. Other shows however that do get advanced promotion and a lot of it do tend to get a big opening night number. MSNBC had both Donahue and Rita Cosby turn in good numbers for the network (at that point in its history) on opening night. Both shows got cancelled though only Cosby’s could be considered a ratings related death.

The point: Considering all the promotion that’s been going on for this show; not just on CNN, but all the stories written about it on blogs, trade sites, newspapers, and magazines, the opening night low number is not something we can easily dismiss as just the usual growing pains. No, it’s significant that viewers wouldn’t check out the opening night in a bigger number considering all the hype the show got. It’s not a good sign and Feder knows it.

But I will keep checking in on Parker Spitzer periodically to see if I see any improvement in the program which would justify a new blog post on the subject.

At the end of the article Feder puts down his top and picks up an Ouija Board and starts channeling the CNN ghost of Jon Klein…

“We have a great brand. We have an outstanding network. We do the best job of anyone in television covering breaking news,” he says. “Clearly we want to put on a primetime schedule that will bring people to the set night after night when there isn’t a lot going on in the world. That’s our objective. With Piers Morgan coming onboard and with Anderson Cooper, we’re very excited about a strong consistent primetime lineup that we think will bring new energy to cable and will impact the ratings positively. Otherwise we would be doing something different.”

Setting aside the usual CNN puffery about branding and all let’s get to the central point about “a strong consistent primetime lineup”. It might have made a difference prior to last week but MSNBC has now raised the bar with The Last Word. If O’Donnell’s numbers keep pummeling AC360 at 10pm like they are now, and that’s not guaranteed at this point, CNN’s primetime climb out of 3rd just got much much harder…


23 Responses to “Spin Control…”

  1. Last time I tuned in to CNN for breaking news, Rick Sanchez was asking for his measurements in English. Sure, it was a circus, but at least it was fun to watch. Not so much anymore. I like breaking news for the excitement, and the only anchor who delivers that is Shepard Smith.

  2. I tend to agree with your analysis. Bit sad, in that these are two dynamic individuals. Maybe that is part of the problem. Their chemistry is in direct conflict.
    Lawrence O’Donnell has been wonderful. Granted, he can get a bit excited about “gotta” situations, but, as he calms down he will be excellent.
    Where I think that CNN absolutely shines is on Sunday. I always turn to them after I’ve gotten my sunshine from Alex Witt.

  3. actuallyheresthething Says:

    This doesn’t make any sense. I remember watching and loving Rita Coby Live & Direct on MSNBC. It was the highest rated program on the network. NBC’s cable news channel was in the midst of management shake up, format changes… and also Live & Direct changed time slots without notice. Not sure why it was eventually canceled, but it had nothing to to with the ratings, that’s for sure.

  4. actuallyheresthething Says:

    Double checked… “Rita Cobsy Live and Direct” originally aired at 9pm Eastern on MSNBC and was the network’s highest-rated program… yeah.

  5. Parker Spitzer is the worst cable news show I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Alan Keyes Is Making Sense.

  6. Joe you may not be alone in that thought. Only 458,000 total viewers last night. There still going down.

  7. BTW wasn’t Rita Cosby in talks with CNN awhile back about a show on HLN? Maybe she goes to the big network instead. 😉

  8. Starting to look as though the best thing to happen to Sanchez is Park & Spit. A movement is building…

  9. “Parker Spitzer is the worst cable news show I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Alan Keyes Is Making Sense.”

    Have you forgotten that Maury/Connie thing? Or (yikes!) Savage Nation?

  10. ^ Ooh. How do you sleep with flashbacks like that?

  11. Have you forgotten that Maury/Connie thing? Or (yikes!) Savage Nation?

    J$, my man, note the words “I’ve ever seen”. I was aware of those two parasitic menaces you mentioned, but there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to watch them.

  12. It was the highest rated program on the network.

    I have no idea where you’re getting your data from but I have serious reservations about its accuracy. Cosby’s show started out strong and then tailed off.

  13. Cosby

    My very vague memory is that Countdown hit its ratings afterburner about the time Live and Direct was flamng out (you’re welcome, aviation fans). This was also about the time KO started refusing to hand off to Rita, and demanded her ouster. That’s how I remember it, anyway. She was replaced by Scarborough.

  14. For the record, Live & Direct sucked. Bad.

  15. Rita Cosby had great ratings, the network was just going in a different direction, and she was smart to leave. But I loved her show. In fact, she was beating Olbermann back then! The world needs another Rita show!

  16. “Spin Control” – That’ll be the name of Park & Spit’z replacement show.

  17. Anybody who says Rita had great ratings, better than Countdown, at the point of cancellation is simply wrong. When her show was new and his hadn’t caught on yet, sure. Not at the end.

  18. There’s a really obscene joke around here somewhere, but I’m trying to cut down.

  19. Alan Keyes was crazy (entertaining , on scale of one to ten, 8). Maury and Connie were silly (entertaining: 4). Rita Cosby had a weird voice (entertaining: 2). Parker Spitzer was creepy, boring, gimmicky (enteratining: 1)

    I recommend CNN replace the show with “Operation Repo” from sister network TruTV. Feature Repos of Rick Sanchez’s Volvo, Eliot Spitzer’s black socks, and so one.

    Plus “Repo” stars a few hispanics, so Sanchez can’t complain about the lack of diversity.

  20. “Have you forgotten that Maury/Connie thing? Or (yikes!) Savage Nation?”

    ^Cable news is littered with shows that make you wonder ‘What were they thinking when that idea was pitched’. Parker/ Spitzer is one of them.
    The show hasn’t gotten much better over the week and I don’t see much of a future. The format is bad and the hosts have no chemistry.

    It might be a little better if they gave each host 1/2 hour of the show and see who’s better. At least the painful banter would end.

  21. It might be a little better if they gave them their own chairs. Why CNN thought having Parker sit on Spitzer’s lap was a good idea, is a mystery to me.

    Seriously, they were so worried about confronting viewers with Spitzer’s sleazy past that they purposely hired an older female to work with him. Then they parked her extremely close and told her to act like Maureen Dowd. Amazing.

  22. Rita Cosby had great ratings, the network was just going in a different direction, and she was smart to leave.

    You’re making this like it was her decision to leave MSNBC. It wasn’t. She lost her show and then she lost her job.

  23. actuallyheresthething Says:

    icn2… Cosby lost her MIND going to MSNBC. I’ve been there. The place is always in such disarray. Her show’s ratings were good, and I’m aware that she resigned. It’s more than obvious she wasn’t in the right place. Sadly, MSNBC still has no clue where they are going or what they are doing.

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