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CNN Digital Cooks Up New Niche With Reality News

CNN is carving out a vibrant niche somewhere between the breaking news of earthquakes and wars, and reality TV, with its celebrity divorces and people foraging on islands. The cabler calls this category “reality news,” and it’s a format that has been extremely successful with Anthony Bourdain’s multiple-Emmy winning “Parts Unknown.”

CNN Digital Studios, overseen by Chris Berend, launched earlier this year to introduce programming and personalities that could either cross over to the cable network or remain on digital platforms. One of the division’s first shows was urban futurist docuseries “City of Tomorrow,” which appeared on both digital and cable. Other original videos will focus on technology, entertainment, lifestyle and travel.

The influence of Bourdain’s gonzo approach to food and culture is clearly seen in CNN Digital Studios’ upcoming series “Street Food With Roy Choi,” which premieres online Oct. 13. In eight five-minute episodes, L.A. food truck and restaurant entrepreneur Choi introduces viewers to unexpected aspects of the city.

“Be a Champion,” with ex-football player/travel-show host Dhani Jones, is about “being a better version of yourself,” says CNN Digital Studios supervising producer Vivek Kemp; the program is set for 2015. In development with Dave Franco and Funny or Die is “Related,” about famous people and their less-famous siblings.

As the division branches out beyond straight news, says Kemp, “We just want to tell good stories.”

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