CNN Eyes Primetime Shake-Up: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

CNN Primetime Schedule Erin Burnett, Piers
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

TV Analysis: Change is necessary, but it's also likely to be gradual as cable-news network susses through options

Well, now, this is awkward: CNN is casting about for new people and program ideas for its primetime lineup even as it expects staffers currently working in the timeslot to keep at it day after day.

Jeff Zucker, the president of the Time Warner-owned news outlet, has in two separate interviews in recent weeks pronounced 2014 a year of “shake up,” particularly when it comes to primetime, where the network has lagged rival Fox News Channel and fights it out with its other competitor, MSNBC. Ideas on the table, according to people familiar with planning at the network: an emphasis on new programming at 10 and 11 p.m.; a possible half-hour program, potentially featuring Bill Weir, former co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline”; and, conceivably, moving 7 p.m. host Erin Burnett and 9 p.m. host Piers Morgan into other duties if their programs do not gain more traction. Even Anderson Cooper, who recently signed a new contract to stay at the network, could be placed at the helm of something else during the daypart, according to one of these people.

Of course, all of this is speculative. One person familiar with the network said CNN is likely to experiment with many parts of its on-air lineup in 2014, with primetime seen as a “priority.” While Weir is indeed developing programming, no decision has been made about a concept or where in the schedule it might air, this person said. And while the network is casting about for ideas and possible talent, several of these people said no replacement programming has been lined up for anything currently in primetime.

But that can’t last.

It’s true, CNN’s primetime shows notched ratings gains in 2014. At 7 p.m., “Erin Burnett OutFront” lured an average of 498,000 viewers in 2013, up 10% from 453,000 the previous year, according to Nielsen. T he show secured an average of 159,000 viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic favored by advertisers in news programs, up 15% from 138,000 in 2012. Anderson Cooper’s 8 p.m. program, “AC 360,” rose 18% in total viewers to an average of 648,000 vs. 549,000 in 2012. In the 25-to-54 demo, the show saw a 19% gain to an average of 201,000, compared with an average of 169,000 a year earlier. And “Piers Morgan Live” basically stayed flat with 2012 performance, securing a 1% gain in total viewers, to 597,000 compared with 590,000 a year earlier, and a 2% hike in the 25-to-54 demo, to 173,000 from 170,000.

Getting a rise in the time period is a good signal, but the fact remains CNN’s primetime status needs improvement. In the fourth quarter of 2013, CNN’s primetime lineup showed a significant dip in the ratings, and the gap between its viewership and that of MSNBC and Fox News Channel widened. According to Nielsen data, CNN’s primetime shows captured an average of 477,000 viewers overall in the fourth quarter, compared with an average of about 1.78 million for Fox News Channel and an average of 653,000 for MSNBC. Both of those networks saw ratings rise from the third quarter, while CNN’s quarterly primetime average has fallen since the second quarter of 2013, when the network captured an average of 653,000 viewers.

The network has been tinkering in full view of its audience. Don Lemon hosted a half-hour program at 11 p.m. for a few weeks, and he and Jake Tapper have been filling in for  Burnett while she’s on maternity leave. After giving Cooper a second hour at 10, CNN has in recent weeks shown some of the documentaries, which have gained favor during other times during the week. And then of course, there are the rumors about trying to get Jay Leno to take a latenight perch.

“They need some heavyweights” in the time period, said Billie Gold, vice president and director of buying and programming research at Carat, a media-buying agency that counts General Motors among its clients. Because CNN avoids partisan analysis of the news, she said,the network needs to bring in stronger personalities who will keep viewers interested, even when they aren’t looking to find out the latest on a breaking story. “They do not have a strong voice, and I think that’s their problem.”

Finding those sorts of hosts could take time. Yes, CNN will be shaking things up in 2014. Yet chances are Zucker and his staff will have to move gradually, tugging on different strands of the network’s fabric instead of yanking the carpet from under the people who are standing on it and delivering the news.

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  1. Judy says:

    CNN could get rid of Piers Morgan, and I wouldn’t shed a tear as I think we could use a better quality replacement for Larry King.

  2. Murray says:

    Will someone please turn out the lights at CNN after everyone leaves.

  3. jsm1963 says:

    I’ve probably watched about 2 1/2 minutes, or so.

    I’ll take a check.

  4. Judy says:

    I love watching Cooper, and New Day, two great shows

  5. Richard Beckett says:

    Fox News gains viewers by presenting Right Wing slanted misinformation and outright lies to an audience to stupid to know the difference between uninformed “opinion” and real NEWS. MSNBC is pandering to the left wing. CNN does try to “keep them honest” but in a some what timid manner (they need to grow some balls). CNN needs to do a show that tells the truth by “fact-checking” the other two networks, but then there may not be enough viewers with the intelligence required to recognize the truth when they hear it (judging from the previous comments from those who worship at the feet of FOX News Bulls**t). Piers Morgan’s show consists of Piers telling his guests (and us) what HE thinks. Larry king let the guests tell us what THEY thought. I like Larry Kings format much better. Piers can go.
    Hey ‘drattastic’ – “lap dogging Obama” – Give me a F*****g BREAK.

  6. Jeff Crouse says:

    Compared to their current fiasco, they would do better with a yard gnome home shopping network.

  7. Viperguy46 says:

    Please…..kick Morgan out…don’t care about the rest of the CNNN. Don’t watch it anyway!
    Oh and someone please tell Roger Ailes to hire Leno! Man that would be the death trap door for CNN & MSPNBC!

  8. Stu Cozza says:

    Does anybody really watch CNN anymore? Heck, they are battling MSNBC for the bottom spot… it’s a toss-up.

  9. Mystified, too says:

    I don’t know. I never heard of it either.

  10. Throw Piers Morgan OUT, IN put Alex Jones!

  11. agsb2 says:

    Makes me wonder what Leno would do, surely not read the news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. 1peevedbob says:

    Send the English know it all and his audience of , what, 500 per night back across the pond.

  13. Lazybum says:

    Piers- tell the Queen I said “hi” when you go home…LOSER!

  14. Bill_a_bob says:

    Airports have CNN on to raise the ambient temperature by a degree or two

  15. Roger Scott says:

    Does it not bother the powers that be at CNN and MSNBC that their COMBINED viewership is almost 700,00 viewers behind Fox. Can’t they admit that the product they are producing is not what people want to watch? There is no hard news anymore. Every program is slanted to a certain demographic. Every program should be listed as entertainment rather than news. We sheep are not as naïve as they think and we know the flavor of their koolaid.

  16. MJ says:

    It might help if you took on a more national view. Get out and see the country and report on some of the issues in some of the other areas besides the North east. That is the only way you will begin to understands why everyone says your biased. If you never leave New York you will never understand anyone other then New York.

  17. Ross Phipps says:

    you guys really need to close up shop and lock the door behind you , its all you can do now . thats how bad you suck

  18. Bill_a_bob says:

    The corpse of Larry King would be better than Piers Morgan!

  19. Julius Vrooder says:

    If this is all speculation, as the article clearly states, then there’s no story here. Please disperse, there’s nothing to see here folks.

  20. BillyBob says:

    Only a ****ing idiot believes that cnn avoids partisan analysis of the news.

  21. “CNN avoids partisan analysis of the news”. Seriously? In what world? Why would people refer to CNN as the Clinton News Network?
    Answer: CNN is part of the left wing democrat /communist machine dedicated to destroying traditional American values and way of life. That’s why.

  22. macksfield says:

    Or they could just report the new as is. Maybe provide liberal, conservative and independent sides equally. I’m interested in what the other guy thinks.

  23. dave fay says:

    I travel extensively and the only two place I ever see CNN on is at the Airport and in Nursing homes and no one is paying much attention.

  24. Gordon Freeman says:

    CNN avoids partisan analysis of the news … LOL. Hello, Piers Morgan.

  25. twinstick says:

    169,000 viewers? For Rush, that’s a rounding error. No wonder CNN is showing 3rd rate movies at night.

  26. Who’s In and Who’s Out?

    The more pertinent question is, “Who cares?”

  27. DOBRO says:

    Weren’t you the brilliant network that fired Lou Dobbs? I can’t think of anyone else you have that Fox would be interested in getting. Doesn’t say to much for your line-up. Piers Morgan absolutely grates on my last nerve. I feel like he is trying to instruct me on how to be an American. Fast channel change the moment I see him.

  28. HarveyMushman says:

    Piers Morgan absolutely sucks. What kind of name is “Piers” anyway…. If an American moved to Britain, got a TV show and constanly criticized one half of the population people wouldn’t put up with it….

  29. danny rose says:

    And who cares about CNN if no one is watching. Duh!

  30. Michael says:

    Maybe when CNN quits censoring its reporters,I might take a peek. Until….no dice.

  31. j. Marten says:

    I watch Fox but do enjoy Erin. I will watch a little of Anderson and Piers once in awhile.
    Can’t stand that Chris guy (young black guy don’t know last name) and will switch off as soon
    as I see him. He makes sweeping statements that are ignorant and comes across as very young and
    not very seasoned. Not worth my time watching him.

  32. I watched in the beginning when they actually did reporting. But once they became political k=hacks I quit.

  33. Baldrnyu says:

    Try Honey-Boo-Boo reruns. They are about as relevant as Piers Morgan.

  34. Geof says:

    How could you replace a self-absorbed, anti-American jerk like Piers? Do you bring in Michael Moore? at least he’s a big jerk. Maybe your bias is the problem.

  35. wordygirl says:

    Keep Don Lemmon and Jake Tapper. Eject Morgan, Cooper, and that awful Costello woman in the morning (lord she is insufferable).

  36. ali says:

    You screwed yourselves when you let LouDobbs go cause you bowed to Racist La Raza..then you kept going..I’ll never watch you again

  37. jsm1963 says:

    Good to see the two sides can come together on something.

  38. I remember CNN from the first Gulf War, it was right around the last time I watched their channel…

  39. Mitch Rapp says:

    Send Morgan back to England. He has no sense of American values. And he’s a freaking blow hard.

  40. Richard says:

    Do yourselves a favor (can’t believe I’m offering assistance to CNN) send all the expats home. We don’t need opinions from people with silly Brit accents.

  41. wvobiwan says:

    Exactly. Perceptive comment. We’ll see if Zucker and CNN stockholders are interested in money.

  42. op36a says:

    Piers Morgan says it all. No wonder the Clinton News Network became an even lousier ‘News’ source. Opinions rather than facts.

  43. Juk says:

    CNN will keep the losers and never be the wiser.

  44. jsm1963 says:

    WordPress is a pain in the arss. Variety should go with Disqus.

  45. It his was an honest publication the last two words in the headline would be “Who Cares?”

  46. Perry White says:

    I think Anderson Cooper is out. I don’t know about the others.

  47. They would improve the network, just by getting rid of Al Sharpton, Pierce Morgan, Anderson Cooper. But I wont tell them that. CNN is on its death bed!!

    • macksfield says:

      I agree, Morgan is horrid. Just not good. And only a few folks take Sharpton seriously. Time to clean house. Get some independents and yes, some conservatives to mix it up.

  48. jsm1963 says:

    CNN and MSNBC doesn’t do this. No reputable news organization does this.

    Leaked Fox News Memo Reveals News Division Told To Echo GOP Talking Point
    http://www.businessinsider.com/leaked-fox-news-memo-reveals-news-division-told-to-echo-gop-talking-point-2010-12

    33 internal FOX editorial memos reviewed by MMFA reveal FOX News Channel’s inner workings
    http://mediamatters.org/research/2004/07/14/33-internal-fox-editorial-memos-reviewed-by-mmf/131430

  49. StreekyD says:

    Get rid of moron Morgan

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