Cable News 2014 New Year’s Resolutions

A new year. Time for new resolutions. Once again here are the 2014 Cable News Resolutions…resolved in absentia by yours truly…

ICN resolves on behalf of CNN…

To not overdo this year’s changes – More changes are coming in 2014. Expect primetime to be overhauled. Expect mornings to continue to be worked over. Expect more tape. Expect talent and format changes in dayside. But a moderating effect is required as these changes are implemented. Wholesale change risks alienating CNN’s core viewership…a viewership which has other alternatives such as Al Jazeera America to turn to.

ICN resolves on behalf of MSNBC…

To not oversell Ronan Farrow – The network has done a piss poor job of it so far. Expectations have been set ridiculously high for the under 30 whiz kid and the network has done nothing to tamp them down. Worse than do nothing, it’s actually encouraged it a bit. Maddow became a name because she worked at it. Hayes became a name because he worked at it. Schultz became a name and carved out a following because he worked at it. None of them were annointed by the network as the next great thing in news prior to their debut.

To not overdo this year’s changes – Changes are coming to dayside. Some changes have already been announced but more are coming. Nothing appears to be off the table. MSNBC dayside ratings took a beating last year so change should not be unexpected. But what gets changed matters. Making talent changes when the format is the problem (“we don’t do news”) is not the solution.

To set some standards about what’s acceptable behavior – I don’t buy the “culture of hate” argument that some of MSNBC’s critics have tossed at the network after a bunch of bad PR controversies erupted at the end of 2013. That said, it is clear that MSNBC’s internal barometer of what constitutes acceptable TV and what doesn’t is currently on the fritz. Fix the barometer and stop firing off self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

ICN resolves on behalf of FNC…

To stop whining about Obama Administration abuse of the press corps (and its own reporters) when its own PR department regularly abuses the people who write about it – You look silly complaining about the treatment of reporters by the Administration when your own administration holds just as much contempt of the press that cover it.

More of the same – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Aside from the lineup changes that occurred towards the end of this year (which were precisely what I resolved would happen at the start of 2013…see below) FNC doesn’t need to do anything radical. It’s been #1 for so long…and by a wide margin…that change for change’s sake would be too risky.

ICN resolves on behalf of Al Jazeera America…

To get more market penetration – To get hung up on format and/or talent issues at this stage of AJA’s birth would be counterproductive. No, the single most important aspect of AJA’s immediate future must be greater market penetration. Increased HD coverage wouldn’t hurt but would come in a distant distant second or third.

ICN resolves on behalf of Bloomberg TV…

To have a future – Towards the end of 2013 a series of articles came out pointing to the possibility of a wholesale re-evaluation of the entire Bloomberg TV franchise. Not a good way to start the new year with your very future in question. This needs to be resolved one way or another very quickly.

ICN resolves on behalf of CNBC…

To stop the bleeding – Ratings are down, major talent is defecting…2013 has not been a great year for Englewood Cliffs. The franchise desperately needs to send a signal that it is working to reverse this negative trend.

ICN resolves on behalf of FBN…

Expand, expand, expand! – 2014 is looking to be the year the network makes its biggest push since it first launched. New studio space is coming. Maria Bartiromo is coming.

It’s business news stupid – Giving Kennedy a show? On a business channel? How many times is FBN going to put libertarian types on to wax-non business only to subsequently take them off again? This behavior is starting to resemble a stuck record.

2013’s resolutions…

ICN resolved on behalf of CNN…

– To not succumb to Jeff Zucker’s temptation to dumb down CNN’s hard news brand. Incomplete…but bordering on failure. It’s still a work in progress but ominous clouds hang on the horizon as Zucker continues to “broaden the definition of news” and add more tape on more hours.

– To decide on a format for mornings before deciding on any talent changes. Failure. The talent came first…the format came second. As one might have predicted…things have been rocky on New Day as a result.

– 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. Success…sort of. Zucker is trying to change the narrative…just not the right narrative (“broadening the definition of news”).

– To think “Format first, talent changes second” – Fix your programming before fixing your talent. Incomplete. The formatting has not changed significantly…yet. But neither has the talent changed much either aside from a few key pickups (Chris Cuomo, Jake Tapper)

– To not get hung up on “name talent” as a panacea, something this network has done too many times in the past. Incomplete but bordering on failure. There have not been that many talent changes so it would be tough to argue that CNN is still hung up on getting names as a pancea. On the other hand some of the talent changes that have occurred have been names.

ICN resolved on behalf of MSNBC…

– To have an explanation at the ready when the 2013 numbers drop off after the election. Success…sort of. Phil Griffin’s excuse was that MSNBC doesn’t do news. Well…it was an explanation but it was a bad optics explanation.

– To finally rid the network of the taped crime programming. Failure. MSNBC has added a lot more live programming to weekends but new episodes of Lockup still keep appearing. CNN has been beating up on MSNBC in its press releases for having Lockup and Caught on Camera skew their ratings up…albeit while conveniently ignoring that their taped programming has skewed their own ratings up. But if I were to choose between taped offerings, CNN’s is more interesting.

– To not put Ezra Klein, if he should get a show, in primetime…especially at 8pm. Hasn’t happened, so success.

– 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. It started happening a bit towards the end of 2013 where Thomas Roberts started sitting in on Morning Joe. Still, until we have word of a new deal between Joe, Mika, and MSNBC, the threat of them bolting is still out there.

ICN resolved 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. Success. Roger Ailes did indeed change things up with Fox and Friends and in primetime

– 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! Failure. FNC graphics are still too huge on my HD screen.

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. Failure.

ICN resolved 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. Success.

ICN resolved 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. Success. We had less crazy on CNBC in 2013 than we have had in previous years. But Santelli still goes bonkers on occasion.

ICN resolved 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. Success. FBN made more progress in 2013. It hired Maria Bartiromo away from CNBC and bought new studio space in the old Charles Schwab offices in the News Corp. building…though that space has yet to be developed.

6 Responses to “Cable News 2014 New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. I can’t wait for 2015 to see how it all works out.

  2. All I can figure is that someone in the FOX PR department must have put out an 8×10 glossy of Spud that was most unflattering.

  3. I like Kennedy’s show. Stossel has a show on FBN, also, and he’s not a business reporter.

  4. Re: FNC Saturday business block – I like it mostly because I do not pay for FBN on all the TVs in my house. Maybe FBN realizes that not everyone out there can afford the cost of the “platinum” cable package or even wants that package and feels like they have something to share.

    Re: FNC bitching about the President and his abuse of the press corps. That abuse affects every single citizen of this country. If we can not get the information from journalists of all stripes we as citizens are screwed. If we do not get some crappy piece of information from the FOX PR Department who gives a flying eff! That does not affect my life as no information from our executive branch does.

    Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

    As far as AJA my regular cable package does not come with that channel and I would have to pay for the platinum package and get all the premium channels and it’s not worth my $ but I would like to see what it all about because enough people talk about it here. Extra $ for me go into a vacation fund so I can get away from cable news!

  5. Pam, Spud’s point is that FNC constantly berates and trashes the same White House Press Corps while they, at the same time, claim to be some sort of champions for First Amendment rights. It’s crap. Hannity goes on the air all the time with his “laptop media” crap and they always invite Palin on to talk about “lame stream media”.

    Journalists responded to the treatment they’ve gotten from The White House lately exactly the way I expected them to — by investigating the implementation of the ACA responsibly but thoroughly. The MSM coverage of the ACA has been largely negative despite what Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly claim.

  6. Maybe FBN realizes that not everyone out there can afford the cost of the “platinum” cable package or even wants that package and feels like they have something to share.

    That would be an important point if the Saturday Business Block still covered business. It doesn’t. It covers politics from a business angle. The Saturday business block essentially died about six years ago when it moved away from covering stocks and market trends to what it covers now.

    If we do not get some crappy piece of information from the FOX PR Department who gives a flying eff!

    And if that’s all the FNC PR department did to the people who cover it you would have a very valid point. The level of skulduggery that goes on there has barely been touched on in the press. I expect a lot of it will go public when Gabriel Sherman’s book comes out. I’ve never seen another PR department so openly hostile to the people they have to deal with that they do the things they have done to them. I don’t know all the incidents, which haven’t been reported. But I know enough…

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