CNN’s revamp continues as it launches CNN Films, a new division to secure feature-length documentaries to air on CNN and CNN Intl. alongside theatrical distribution.
Move is part of a wider strategy to acquire original nonfiction content to complement news, said network worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker. Its first project is “Girl Rising,” to air in the spring. Film, which follows several girls from around the globe, inspired a global action campaign to promote girls’ education and includes narration by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez.
It was directed by Richard Robbins (“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”) and exec produced by Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon of the Documentary Group and Microsoft founder Paul Allen of Vulcan Prods.
CNN’s ratings have been anemic, and worldwide chief Jim Walton announced his departure in July. The network is branching into more lifestyle fare, hiring Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock to jazz up the brand.
CNN Films has also signed development deals for original docs with Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer”) and director Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”).
“CNN Films will bring distinguished, thought-provoking documentary programming to our global audiences on all our television, online and mobile platforms,” Whitaker said. “We want these documentaries to tell compelling stories and stimulate important discussions across CNN’s other programs and websites.”
Amy Entelis, senior VP of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior VP of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, will oversee the acquisition strategy the CNN Films banner. Malhotra will manage the day-to-day operations.
CNN Films will be developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters.