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CNN will try out Carlson

Conservative pundit to sub for Brown

Can CNN’s Tucker Carlson make the jump from political pundit to primetime host?

CNN executives will soon find out. Carlson was tapped by CNN prexy Jon Klein to sub for Aaron Brown on “NewsNight” next week in a high-stakes tryout designed to see of the “Crossfire” co-host can make the leap to a full hour of non-partisan news.

Carlson, whose contract expires with CNN at the end of the year, is being courted by NBC prexy Jeff Zucker to replace Deborah Norville weeknights at 9 p.m. on MSNBC.

But CNN is also considering him for primetime duty and is weighing whether to make a bid to retain him.

CNN’s Klein, who took the reins of the net just last month, will watch Carlson’s performance and decide before the end of the year whether the network will make a bid.

Primetime woes

But guaranteeing Carlson a primetime slot raises questions about the fate of CNN’s current primetime lineup. CNN declined to comment on who Carlson might replace, but Klein said that fixing the network’s primetime is his first priority coming into the job.

“Paula Zahn Now” and “Anderson Cooper 360” are CNN’s weakest links in primetime, averaging 489,000 and 463,000 viewers in December, respectively. At 10 p.m., “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” does better, with 602,000 viewers, helped by a lead-in from “Larry King Live” in the 9 p.m. timeslot.

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