CNN eyes primetime jolt

Net weighs options for Cooper

CNN is weighing another primetime shuffle in a bid to highlight its marquee talent, Anderson Cooper.

Net is considering making Cooper a permanent fixture at 10 p.m. and moving Aaron Brown to 7 p.m., a drastic shift that would again change the face of CNN’s primetime.

While CNN execs insisted that no decision has been made on the changes, sources close to the network say the net has been searching for ways to better feature Cooper, who has emerged over the past year as a breakout talent.

His 7 p.m. show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” has about half the nightly viewers of his counterpart at Fox News, Shepard Smith, who hosts the fast-paced “Studio B.”

CNN paired Cooper with Brown during the aftermath of Katrina and extended “NewsNight” from one to two hours to give more coverage to the storms that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast.

The move gave Cooper three hours of screen time in primetime.

Since then, CNN said, its 11 p.m.-12 a.m. hour has increased 41% over a rebroadcast of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” in the 25-54 demographic. In addition to the Cooper-Brown switch, the net is weighing whether to make the second hour of “NewsNight” permanent.

Move would reunite Brown with his former producer, Wilson Surratt, who was shifted to the 7 p.m. timeslot when Cooper was added to “NewsNight” in September. The former producer of “Anderson Cooper 360,” David Doss, became producer of “NewsNight” in the same staff shakeup.

Moves would be the biggest changes to primetime since Jonathan Klein took over as president of CNN’s U.S. operation in November of 2004.

The net is still searching for a formula to retain viewers during the down side of a news cycle. Its strongest primetime show, “Larry King Live,” is averaging less than 1 million viewers while Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly is pushing 3 million viewers on a nightly basis.

Fox has had virtually the same primetime lineup since 1996, with the exception of Greta Van Susteren, who jumped from CNN to Fox in 2002.

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