CNBC primes doc slate

Net plans business-oriented newsmag

NEW YORK — CNBC will air a slate of primetime documentaries this fall and is developing a business-oriented newsmag in a bid to boost its numbers in primetime.

It’s a page ripped out of the playbook of corporate sibling MSNBC, which ditched two hours of live primetime shows over the summer in favor of taped docus, some produced by the staff of NBC News’ “Dateline.”

Both CNBC’s slate of docs and its as-yet-unnamed newsmagazine are being produced under the direction of Josh Howard, the former “60 Minutes II” exec producer who was among the CBS execs to take the fall in the wake of the “Memogate” scandal.

Howard, now veep of longform at CNBC, has hired away several long-term “60 Minutes” employees who are helping him develop a show that sounds a lot like a business version of … “60 Minutes.”

The show, to debut in December, will be hosted by CNBC correspondent David Faber. Howard will produce a new edition once a month; repeats will air twice a week.

Howard is also spearheading a slate of two-hour docs beginning with “Inside American Airlines: A Week in the Life,” which premieres Oct. 8 at 9 p.m., preempting the second airing of “Mad Money” and “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch.”

A second doc, “Big Brother, Big Business,” will investigate personal data collection by big business, and a third, looking at the videogame biz, is being finalized under the working title “Game On: The Unauthorized History of Video Games.”

“Part of the plan is to appeal to some of our hardcore viewers who watch the markets during the day and try and pull them into primetime,” Howard said.

Both of NBC U’s New Jersey-based cablers are looking to build closer editorial ties to NBC News, based at 30 Rock in Gotham.

Like MSNBC, CNBC will tap the staff and resources of NBC’s “Dateline,” which has not been producing as many hours this season since football now airs in its place on Sunday.

The multiple airings that CNBC can give docs help amortize the cost of “Dateline” staff, as well as pay the freight for docs like “Inside American Airlines,” which required 12 crews and eight producers during the course of one week.

Howard, who was hired in December to start a docu unit at CNBC, has found more than a few takers among his former co-workers at CBS News.

Longtime “60 Minutes” producer Mitch Weitzner, who just won an Emmy for his work with Ed Bradley, joined Howard at CNBC as producer of the American Airlines doc.

Among other former “60 Minutes” producers now working for Howard at CNBC are Diane Simon, Christie Gripenburg and Jill Landes.

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