Fox News, CNN Poised Media-Show Battle

CNN hires Brian Stelter from New York Times to vie with veteran Howard Kurtz at Fox News Channel

CNN’s answer to the loss of Howard Kurtz from “Reliable Sources”? A younger version of the anchor who, like the veteran media scribe, uses Twitter as much as he does the more traditional news story to analyze the media sector.

The Time Warner cable-news outlet said it hired Brian Stelter, a media reporter with The New York Times who has penned a book on the broadcast-network morning show wars and made use of blogs and tweets to amplify his coverage, to replace Kurtz, who decamped from CNN in June. Kurtz now holds the reins at a new Fox News Channel program called “MediaBuzz” that airs in the same time slot Sunday mornings as “Reliable” does on CNN.

MediaBuzz” debuted September 8th. CNN did not offer a start date for Stelter’s tenure on the program, though he has been serving as a guest host on “Reliable” in recent weeks, appearing in a rotation with other media veterans, including NPR’s David Folkenflik and former CNN anchor Frank Sesno.

At first blush, the move looks like an effort to fill the seat of a relatively low-rated program with someone from outside the TV world whose salary demands might not be as large as those of a veteran TV anchor. And while “Sources” would never find a home in CBS’ primetime lineup, its audience of journalists and other influencers is an important one for CNN to cultivate. “Sources” typically airs between “Fareed Zakaria GPS” at 10 a.m. and a rerun of “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” at noon; both shows aim at people interested in politics and policy and the audience’s education and income can be attractive to certain kinds of sponsors.

Stelter will serve as a senior media correspondent for CNN Worldwide, and report daily on CNN/U.S., CNN International, CNN.com, CNNMoney.com and across CNN’s vast mobile and social landscape. He created TVNewser, a blog covering the television news industry, in 2004, while a college freshman at Towson University.  Six months later he sold TVNewser to Mediabistro.com, though he continued to edit and write for the blog for three additional years.  He joined the Times in 2007, after graduating from Towson with a degree in mass communications with a concentration in journalism.

Kurtz. meanwhile, is a veteran of the beat, having covered media, TV and more at The Washington Post for many years.He joined the paper in 1981 and started covering media in 1990. He was also a Washington bureau chief at The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

Stelter will have his work cut out for him. Since debuting on Fox News Channel, Kurtz’s “MediaBuzz” is averaging an overall audience of  862,000, according to Nielsen Media Research,  and an average viewership of 168,000 in people between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming.  During the same period of time, “Reliable Sources” has averaged an overall audience of 454,000, according to Nielsen data, and an average viewership of 125,000 in viewers between 25 and 54.

In the last three weeks, “MediaBuzz’ has averaged 941,000 in total viewers and 166,000 viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen, compared with 381,000 total viewers and 102,000 viewers for “Reliable Sources.”

News of Stelter’s impending hire was reported earlier by the Los Angeles Times.

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