Anderson Cooper is about to do a 180.
CNN is permanently shifting to taped programming for much of the second hour of “Anderson Cooper 360,” scaling back an ambitious programming block created in 2005 to showcase the studio and field-reporting talents of Cooper, who it viewed as an emerging star.
CNN launched Cooper in the two-hour live block starting at 10 p.m. ET in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina two years ago, placing him alongside Aaron Brown, whose “NewsNight” had been extended an additional hour to report on the disaster.
But CNN soon benched Brown and made the two-hour block permanent, with Cooper at the helm, and promoted the anchor’s blend of reporting with personality that became his signature.
CNN’s cable news competitors air taped programming at 11 p.m. ET, a cheaper proposition, and the second hour of “360” runs second in the ratings to a rerun of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel.
Cooper averaged 747,000 viewers in his second hour in August, less than O’Reilly’s 965,000 and a steep drop from the 1.1 million he averaged during the first hour, according to Nielsen.
Sources at competing networks have long speculated that CNN would cancel the second hour and revert to tape at 11 p.m.
CNN spokesperson Christa Robinson said the net has no intention of canceling the second hour and cast the move as a continuation of what the network had been doing this summer–reverting to pre-recorded programming in the second hour unless news events warrant otherwise.
Robinson said ratings have actually improved since the show moved to tape, and that generally Cooper will anchor the first 10-15 minutes of the second hour before signing off.
Even with the switch, she said, Cooper still hosts “more live programming than any other evening news anchor.”
When CNN extended “NewsNight” in 2005, it displaced a second airing of “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” a lucrative hour for the net since it cost nothing to produce, raked in advertising and exposed Dobbs to West Coast viewers at 8 p.m.
The move was seen at the time as a blow to Dobbs, though his numbers have grown since then and the firebrand anchor’s hour is now CNN’s highest-rated show behind “Larry King Live.”
Sources said both Dobbs and Brown have lobbied for the time slot.
The stakes are high for Brown, who is set to compete at the 8 p.m. hour against FNC’s O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. If she gets another airing at 11, she’d face O’Reilly twice a day.
MSNBC at one time experimented with Tucker Carlson at 11 p.m. but soon moved him to 6 and launched its “Doc Block,” filled with repurposed “Dateline” episodes.