CNN Prime/Early Prime Overhaul…

CNN announced a bunch of changes today. In the Arena with Eliot Spitzer has been cancelled. AC360 moves to 8pm with a repeat at 10. Erin Burnett gets 7pm, John King, USA moves to 6pm, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer will shift forward an hour to 4-6pm.

My immediate reactions are as follows:

1. CNN vacates 10pm to On The Record and The Ed Show. Certainly 360 will air live at 10pm on nights when news is breaking…but the rest of the time CNN will be in tape during prime time!!!

Let me repeat that….

CNN will be in tape during prime time.

I never could have envisioned such a development. I suspect it won’t last long because the PR blow back from this guaranteed-to-be-talked-about-by-the-competition talking point will be a bitter pill for the network and its staff to swallow.

2. Did Anderson Cooper’s syndication deal necessitate this move to keep Cooper from being stretched too thin? Probably not but the question is now going to be asked.

3. CNN is doubling down on news and information at 8pm vs. the competition. The history is in on that battle and the verdict long ago rendered. CNN will get creamed. Ok, Spitzer was a bad hire but the idea of moving toward opinion was a good one given the current cable news prime time landscape. Today’s move is a big step backwards…back to Connie Chung, Paula Zahn, and Campbell Brown. How many times does CNN need to have sand kicked in its face at 8pm before it finally gets it?

4. I called it.

When CNN announced Burnett’s hire, a quick survey of its programming landscape pointed strongly to the current vacancy at 1pm as the odds on favorite destination if for no other reason than because it was vacant and had been vacant for some time. Then Page Six came out with its story that John King USA was going to be jettisoned for Burnett. CNN shot that down the same day.

Unfortunately for CNN their “conclusive” statement does not settle the matter and it can blame itself for that. The incredibly complicated pretzel-like PR contortions the network made during the whole Piers Morgan/Larry King saga last year has effectively poisoned the well for the foreseeable future in regards to any statements the network makes concerning future talent/programming decisions. I just can’t take what they say at face value completely, not to the degree I once did back before it allowed the Morgan/King PR Charlie Foxtrot to spin out of control. I mean, you could parse CNN’s statement rebutting Page Six in such a manner that Page Six still winds up being right. Burnett could replace King’s show if King’s show moved for example…

CNN was deliberately being cagey in how it responded to all the John King rumors. Page Six 2 (King and Piers Morgan), CNN 0. Today’s news re-enforces what the King/Morgan PR debacle started…digging its self-inflicted hole even deeper. You can’t trust the network’s public statements on its programming right now.

CNN’s announcement, including new schedule for prime, after the jump…

CNN ANNOUNCES NEW EVENING LINEUP

Schedule Showcases Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan to Air this Fall

CNN has unveiled a new evening lineup with anchors Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan to launch this fall, it was announced today by Ken Jautz, executive vice president, CNN/U.S.

Beginning Aug. 8, CNN will broadcast its flagship nightly news program AC360, anchored by Anderson Cooper, live at 8pm and re-air it in its current timeslot of 10pm.

In the fall, CNN will premiere a new general news program with Erin Burnett, which will air at 7pm ET and re-air at 11pm ET. Piers Morgan Tonight will continue to air at 9pm and 12am ET.

John King USA will kick off the evening at 6pm. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer will continue as a two-hour daily program, airing in a new timeslot of 4-6pm. CNN Newsroom will now air from 9am-4pm. The full programming schedule is provided below.

“The new line-up showcases anchors who are experienced reporters in covering stories that span the globe,” said Jautz. “We created a nightly schedule that brings together the best of CNN’s journalism on a wide range of topics from politics and the economy to global and world events, as well the best newsmaker and celebrity interviews. This line-up ensures viewers access to the best of what CNN has to offer whenever they tune in at night.”

“I’m looking forward to the new time slot and am excited to share AC360 with a new audience at 8pm, while still connecting with my regular viewers at 10pm,” said Cooper.

CNN Fall Schedule (All times Eastern):

6a-9am: American Morning

9a-4pm:CNN Newsroom

4pm: Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
6pm: John King, USA
7pm: Erin Burnett
8pm: Anderson Cooper 360°
9pm: Piers Morgan Tonight
10pm: AC 360 re-air
11pm: Erin Burnett re-air
12am: Piers Morgan Tonight re-air

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13 Responses to “CNN Prime/Early Prime Overhaul…”

  1. terance Says:

    Maybe I deserve a job in cable news? My idea was to put Erin on at 7 so she wouldn’t be destined to fail at 8pm.

    Anyway, I think moving AC360 to 8pm makes sense because its not like they’ll be throwing someone new in there to fail. He has his ‘own’ audience albeit not very big but shouldn’t get lower than the average.

    I’ve always believed a certain number of people will tune in at 8pm on CNN even if they run color bars. So, anything above the ‘average’ would be a bonus.

    Concerning the repeat at 10pm — They can also DO IT LIVE if need be. And perhaps this is more of a temporary thing to try and stabilize ratings. Trust me, Jautz is no dummy unless you discount HLN’s surge from the Casey Anthony trial. Remember Greta used to be the ‘go to’ for court cases prior to being converted to more politics.

  2. It would make more sense to replay Burnett at 10 PM and replay AC at 11.

    While I agree with Spud that this is a return to the non-opinion at 8 PM, Anderson Cooper is different. He already has a track record of success at CNN, and his syndicated show will most certainly give him an even greater exposure to the average person, only helping his CNN program.

    I do find the JKUSA and Sit Room moves interesting, and I predicted this a while ago, but I didn’t think Spitzer would be canned. CNN actually made a good move for once.

    As for CNN Newsroom, I am curious what will happen there anchor-wise.

  3. savefarris Says:

    Has Keith Olbermann claimed credit yet?

  4. laura l Says:

    Herr Olbermann claims another victim, eh?

  5. I haven’t thought this through, but my suspicion is that CNN is doing at 10:00PM in anticipation of the upcoming election cycle programming exactly what FNC is doing at 5:00 with The Five or whatever number they gave it.

  6. danoregon Says:

    Why wouldn’t you put Burnett on at 4 p.m. and try and draw some biz viewers who stay with it as it segues into the 5 p.m. hour? I understand it’s going to be a general news show, but why not top it with a Street rundown?

    And I don’t know when CNN seemed to have a master plan for their prime time since the Rick Kaplan era when they tried to integrate Time-Life’s print titles. Of course, the Tailwind thing kind of killed that off.

    Since then, the network has seemed like a middling Major League baseball club, hiring free agents and trying to wrap their “philosophy” around them instead of the other way around. Leading to a “rebuilding” every three years or so.
    Will anything be done “live” in primetime?

  7. Dan, maybe the problem is that Biz news gets even less viewers than CNN does right now.

    Spotted: E.D. Hill, anchoring CNN Newsroom. Hmm. Does the cancellation on In The Arena mean E.D. will take on a new role at CNN?

  8. joeremi Says:

    AC at 8 is insane. The Factor and The Last Word are the best opinion shows on cable. CNN needs an expendable loss leader in that slot, not their biggest star. Burnett losing badly in that hour wouldn’t generate much news, but AC getting hammered will.

  9. bushleaguer Says:

    Joe – my thoughts exactly.
    On one level it makes sense for the network to insert it’s biggest draw at the 8pm time slot, but given that they’ve tried repeatedly and failed they are taking a big risk with having Cooper’s new 8pm show eventually canceled and having to move it back to 10 (live) and “promoting” the next sacrificial lamb to take over.

    The only real logic to it is that they want to fight for second place and think that Cooper can draw better ratings than O’Donnell with O’Donnell having to compete with Olbermann for the same audience now. Beyond that, I don’t it. Sacrifice John King – not their top talent.

  10. John King is moved to 6 because his show focused on politics. AC focuses on a broader range of topics. As CNN’s biggest star, they figure he can do better than Spitzer. It seems that’s all they care about. When there is big breaking news, he will be a great lead off hitter.

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