CNN touts web stats, impartiality at upfront

Exec calls network 'only credible nonpartisan voice left'

CNN Worldwide prexy Jim Walton called the net “the only credible nonpartisan voice left” at the org’s lengthy Tuesday morning upfront at Rose Hall in Time Warner Center.

Execs are under pressure to spin the net’s declining ratings for ad buyers — exec veep of ad sales and marketing Greg D’Alba told the aud that “media consumption is changing” and that “the complete story [isn’t] being told.”

Accordingly, execs blended their nets’ lackluster TV viewership numbers with high-traffic web stats during the ad buyer presentation, saying that CNN reaches “127 million consumers” according to D’Alba and that “if you take CNN domestic, for example, we don’t just reach thousands more viewers than our cable news competitors, we reach millions more viewers than our competitors,” according to Walton.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Walton also thanked media attendees for “all the great coverage we’ve had in the last few months,” to laughs from the aud. Walton also said that CNN’s U.S. network accounts for less than 10% of the CNN Worldwide’s total revenue.

The execs emphasized the “nonpartisan news” mantra. Competish MSNBC and Fox News were never mentioned, but it was hard to miss the veiled swipes from D’Alba and CNN U.S. prexy Jon Klein. “There’s more news on more screens than ever before, but we believe there’s less journalism,” D’Alba said.

When touting the net’s new flagship show “John King, USA,” Klein said, “It’s not an over-the-top opinion show with a predictably partisan host who stacks the deck with a bunch of people who agree with him. Or her.”

Since it’s not easy to preview upcoming world events, the net staged a panel of CNN anchors and contributors holding forth on the events of the day — for CNN’s politics panel, pundits included anchor Wolf Blitzer and King, with Anderson Cooper moderating. Subjects included a previously-unreleased presidential approval rating poll and the midterm elections. Among commentators on the HLN panel were Nancy Grace and Joy Behar, who held forth on Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock.

Of all the execs, only KC Estenson adopted the traditional “we told you we’d do it, then we did it” pitch familiar to upfront attendees. Estenson (and Walton and Klein) emphasized the company’s social media/reporting hybrid iReport.

The online section of the presentation led with the revamped CNN.com entertainment section, edited by former OK! editor-in-chief Katie Caperton who held that position for just over a year before being announced by CNN yesterday.

Aside from a new docu slate, no new programming was announced.

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