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CNN Keeps Burnett, Cooper in Primetime While Adding ‘CNN Tonight’ at 10 P.M.

Mike Rowe, Lisa Ling, John Walsh to host original series to air in primetime

CNN is trying to make it easier for the network to go full-throttle on breaking-news stories it can own, as it has in its recent coverage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The Time Warner-owned outlet said it would keep two hours of its primetime schedule as is, while focusing its 9 p.m. hour on original films and documentaries and giving its 10 p.m. hour to a live hour centered on the hot topics of the day anchored by a rotating number of hosts.

The lineup shows the Time Warner-owned cable news network trying to remain malleable as it seeks to shore up a primetime roster that has not been competitive unless a big breaking-news story captivates its audience.

CNN said Erin Burnett would remain at 7 p.m. as host of “Outfront,” while Anderson Cooper will continue to hold forth in its 8 p.m. hour. The 9 o’clock hour, once home to Piers Morgan, will be given over to a group of original series, inhouse-produced documentaries and original and acquired non-fiction programming under the CNN Films banner. The 10 p.m. hour will be devoted to a one-hour program, “CNN Tonight,” that will take on the most interesting stories of the day.

The moves have the network, run under the aegis of CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, placing a bet that a focus on current events and original storytelling will attract more audiences than attempting to create personality-led programming across its entire primetime schedule – a strategy that regularly fuels ratings for rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC. In recent weeks, CNN’s focus on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has captivated viewers and helped the network notch some ratings wins during primetime. The question in place is this: What does CNN do when interest in a big story peters out? The new primetime schedule appears to give the network the flexibility to drill down on stories it believes it can own while maintaining programming that can fill the gaps when such stories are not in the offing (and which can be pre-empted when they are).

For the original series slated to air at 9 p.m. CNN said it had hired Mike Rowe, the popular one-time host from Discovery Network, to lead a series,”Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” which will bring viewers, according to the network’s description, “face to face with men and women who march to the beat of a different drum,” including entrepreneurs, fanatics, and others. Lisa Ling, the author and journalist, will host a documentary series centered on bizarre and unusual sub-cultures in America. And John Walsh, the well-known host of long-running Fox program “America’s Most Wanted,” will host “The Hunt,” a series that tells stories about ongoing international investigations into fugitives at large.

CNN said it would launch an original series, “The Jesus Code,” that will use archaeology, forensics and other techniques to explore evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ.

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