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. seannc says:

    Newsflash CNN. Your problem is not JUST who is in front of the camera. Your writers, editors, managers, producers and directors are so far left that they infect your broadcast with leftwing, EMOTION BASED, viewpoints.

  2. Shelly M says:

    Start telling the truth and promoting self-sufficiency, self-responsibility, and hard core American principles and you will take over the #1 Fox News!

  3. JR says:

    Whos in or whos out? Who cares!!!!

  4. kimdi01 says:

    CNN is fighting with MSNBC for ratings? Is this a fight where the winner loses? All they can be fighting over would be sole possession of LAST PLACE!

  5. larry brown says:

    IM hoping Roger Ailes will pick up Jay Leno…to pick up a late night conservative will be an rating bonaza …3 steps ahead of what fox tries to do on lae night on friday nights

  6. macksfield says:

    Hey CNN, you guys can produce some very professional news at times. Why not allow more conservative ideas. We would love to watch you more. Its not like conservative ideas are the minority. Mix it up, maybe broadcast a more balanced news.

  7. Fleming says:

    I’d like to see the article author’s support for the statement “It’s true, CNN’s primetime shows notched ratings gains in 2014..”

    • Brian says:

      Who’s in and who’s out, also who cares. Take away all the airports and restaurants including Mcdonalds that keep CNN on for background noise and then lets see who is really watching. My uneducated guess is about 419 people still watch CNN. If other news sources would stop quoting them they would finally cease to exist. Unless they can exist when they charge 400k to cover up news from the powers that wish they would be.

  8. Just look at that cast of idiots. And that wonder why they are where they are?

  9. Len D says:

    I have the perfect line up for you CNN . Starting at 8pm Sybil The Sooth Sayer !( next) it’s The Emmes Truth Department ! (after) Miss Mata Hari and Her Skeletons In The Closet ! (followed) Vox Populli ! (finally) The Mad Prophet of The Airwaves Howard Bealle !

  10. Guess what says:

    Yes! Get rid of that arrogant piece of British a$$h??? Pierce Morgan.

  11. Rick says:

    Keep Erin because she’s hot and who care what she says. Send the rest of them over to MSNBC where they will fit in better with the other leftist morons.

  12. Earn says:

    Get rid of Piers and please report unbiased twisted news. CNN used to be the HOLY GRAIL of accurate and unbiased news but no more. Haven’t watched you or the 3 other alphabet network news in years. NCIS’ ZNN IS MORE ACCURATE!

  13. Checkmate King Two says:

    What do you mean, “they need some heavyweights”?
    They’ve already got “Third Place ‘Jeopardy!’ Winner” Wolf Blitzer, don’t they?
    I mean, how can you top the breathless, fawning “Countdown to The President’s Speech” segment?

  14. stan gore says:

    That pretty well covers it.

  15. CNN and MSNBC are fighting over an audience that is smaller than Fox’s. The liberal audience is a few hundred thousand smaller than the conservative one. That makes it mathematically impossible for either of them to “overtake Fox”. Also, for some reason CNN has chosen to dumb-down its news coverage. It is no longer the default news channel.

  16. Send that idiot Piers Morgan back to England.

  17. I hope Don Lemon ends up in Open Pants Iowa, where he belongs. Ditto Ashley Banfield.

  18. Ron G says:

    They can “shake up” all they want. I won’t be watching the English fellow no matter what they do.

  19. R says:

    Makes no differance to me what they do. My home does not support them or watch them. I’d like to see them shut down. As for hiring new people, Look at the trash they have now.

  20. GEC says:

    Let’s wait until viewership is 4.

  21. ted says:

    Rather than Anderson Cooper or Morgan, I’d feel more entertained watching hand fishing in Lousiana. Cooper never should have come out(we all like a mystery), and P Morgan is about as dangerous and provocative as Honey Bo Bo.

  22. Junior says:

    they should be the first ones in fema camp

  23. Nanny Mo says:

    Boy, as I see it, they could get rid of any one of those three and improve ratings. Personally, I find Morgan to be a very arrogant bore.

  24. So you mean to tell me that the attempt to attract right-wingers with Newt Gingrich, Mark O’Mara, a week-long appearance by Dick Cheney, an hour for Glenn Beck and an interview with the pro-Zimmerman white supremacist Frank Taffee didn’t work?? Geeeeesh!

  25. Another shakeup? Usually news networks would do something like this every few years or so at the least, CNN seems to be doing this every month or so. Reminds me of the five stages of grief, except they seem to be still stuck in the stage of denial.

  26. Pat Megroin says:

    There is not one interesting person on that news network.

  27. Cosmo says:

    The only time I watch cnn is when I am force fed at the airport. Wait, never mind, that is when I watch You Tube on my Iphone. So I guess I never watch it at all. FOX NEWS!

  28. Jim says:

    I’m at a point of watching Jake Taber, the Wolfman himself, and Erin. Forget Anderson (Be-gone-ce devoted; has NOT been “keeping them honest”) and Piers might as well interview himself.

  29. LOLCopter says:

    Its bizarre that their strategy isnt to do more of what the guy who has been beating them for a decade is doing. Is there any other business field where the #2 guy decides to ape the #3 instead of doing what the #1 is doing?

    You need a big personality? Hello! Glenn Beck is not on a cable news network- pick him up.

    Move Piers Morgan out- he is both partisan and obnoxious. That is Larry Kings old interview spot so turn it back into that by giving it to someone like Adam Carolla.

  30. chris says:

    Please watch the clip below, this sum up MSNBC, CNN & FOX

  31. jsm1963 says:

    Aside from Piers Morgan, who is more opinionated than Larry King, what partisan programming have they added over the years? They brought back Crossfire with hosts from both sides of the isle.

  32. valiant says:

    Why is it that every public place I visit that has the TV on, it’s always CNN?

    • jsm1963 says:

      Not as divisive as Fox News. While CNN is running either Piers Morgan or news programming with Anderson Cooper, Fox is running conservative pundits like Hannity and O’Reilly.

  33. I dont think it matters what CNN does anymore. The place it will be seen is Airports and dental offices.

  34. KayFlyte says:

    “…the network has lagged rival Fox News Channel…”

    Wow, there’s the understatement of the day.

  35. jsm1963 says:

    Let’s not pretend Fox News is fair and balanced. Just two days ago they waited 6 hours to report on the Bridgegate emails and then spent only about 15 minutes on it.

    We also know that Fox News actually did receive talking points during the Bush administration. None of the news organizations that you consider liberal, simply because they are not conservative, have ever received talking points.

  36. Kevin says:

    Their programming sucks. I have always watched CNN, so I still stop on it quite often, and I sometimes watch, but only because it’s mildly amusing how annoying every single person they have on there is!! For example, I caught a panel discussion on Piers Morgan consisting of black and gay men (one both) talking about Alex Baldwin’s use of the work faggot. Who gives a rat’s ass. Really the “world wide leader in news”, seems more like your competing w/ the Enquirer on that one. How about the pairing of Anderson Cooper and Cathy Griffin…lame, what are they supposed to be the odd couple? Oh, and Anderson is so much more annoying now that he’s “come out of the closet”. Guess what, I don’t care about the sexual orientation of your anchors, or anyone else for that matter!!

  37. danhsanteal says:

    Erin Burnett is a lightweight. Anyone coulda seen that. Piers is a prig. Let him go home. Zucker himself is a one or two time loser. Moving bodies around means you’ll miss the target again and again. Hire Ted Turner. He was the madcap genius who started the cable news concept. He’s just roaming around the house down at Tara.

  38. rightstuff1944 says:

    Why are all the men “news” readers at CNN so light in the loafers? They are so feminine, it makes me uncomfortable.

  39. Darf says:

    “Because CNN avoids partisan analysis of the news, she said”. Wow are they living in fantasy land or what? They totally embrace, support, and promote partisan analysis…..

  40. Mark Tippets says:

    Why not be more like Fox news and put on air real reporters and cancel your subscription to Media Matters and add a couple of conservative talking heads. Most folks are tired of hearing the party line. Folks are starved for NEWS from gum-shoe rews people.

  41. KJ says:

    It amazes me that CNN or MSNBC doesn’t realize what we…the people…really want. We really want a network with guts and determination that is willing to dig and question and investigate….both sides of the aisle. Don’t take sides, don’t kowtow to Washington and New York…pull back the curtain and expose the corruptive connections of power…wherever they may be.

    Today, networks take sides or focus on entertainment instead of news. We, as citizens, really want to believe in the ideal of America, but we tend to see corporatism and crony capitalism rule the day. We just want someone to fight for us, to be a champion of the people…be it on the right or the left. Instead, we see you bow to Wall Street or Washington.

    A network that is hated by politicians on both sides of the aisle and gets under the skin of Wall Street on a regular basis would rule the airwaves. That’s a network everyone would tune into.

  42. Bill Carroll says:

    Leave the opinion based shows to MSNBC and Fox and go back to reporting news. It’s what made you the premier network 20 years ago, being the gold standard in investigative journalism. Now it is just the old man’s version of MSNBC.

  43. Fred- 90 years old says:

    How about Alex Jones and piers Morgan in the cage for 4 rounds. Wouldn’t last
    20 seconds.

  44. Fin Edelberg says:

    how about a nightly 1 hr primetime show featuring candy Crowley and how she copes with her eating/obesity disorder??…

    • Good one! They’ve lost viewers because of idiots like Piers Morgan and the Kathy Griffin/Anderson Cooper debacle. Cooper, a one credible journalist, has become a huge joke. Or they could try Kim Kardashian reporting the 7 o’clock news.

  45. Jay's Carney says:

    Will anyone notice?

  46. YankeeSoonerBill says:

    I stopped watching cnn 25 years ago!!!

  47. Jeff Dewey says:

    I don’t think any shaking up is going to help this network. NONE of their shows have enough viewers to field a full baseball lineup!! Nobody watches this crap because it’s a real mess! If it wasn’t they’d have more viewers. No network will beat Roger Ailes’ Fox!

  48. rrm says:

    From CNN to FOX:
    Bob Beckel, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Jeff Flock, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Bill Hemmer, John Roberts, Greta Van Sustern, Lauren Simonetti, Howard Kurtz

  49. Richard says:

    Many of these so called journalist didn’t get there because of dedication and hard work. Cooper’s mom is Gloria Vanderbilt an American artist, author, actress, heiress and socialite, noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans. She is a member of the Vanderbilt family of New York. Guess who that sudden new ultra cool journalist Farrow on MSNBC is related ? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

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