You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CNN To Launch W. Kamau Bell Series, Steve Jobs Documentary In 2016

After finding success in filling its primetime schedule with documentary films and docu-series, CNN will continue the strategy in months to come, launching three new docu-series and five new efforts under its CNN Films banner in 2016.

W. Kamau Bell, the former FX host, and author Reza Aslan will each host a new docu-series, while actor Kevin Spacey will produce and narrate a new series focused on various Presidential races. Mike Rowe, John Walsh, Anthony Bourdain, Morgan Spurlock and Lisa Ling will all return for new seasons of their respective programs. CNN will co-produce five new films under its CNN Films unit, each of which is expected to debut in U.S. theaters before appearing on its U.S. network.

The original programming “is a really important part of our agenda of audience and advertiser growth,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, in an interview. “We have made a huge push in new original series, and the reason we have done that is to smooth out the peaks and valleys of the news cycle, so that between news cycles we have programming to offer, and to open ourselves to a different bucket of advertisers.” Zucker said CNN had gained 60 new advertisers through its original-series efforts.

The network is unveiling its new schedule in hopes of generating attention during the “upfront” market, the annual sales process during which U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming year. CNN has some reason to cheer: The network has seen many of its programs surpass those of rival cable-news outlet MSNBC in the ratings. CNN’s “New Day,” for example, is winning more viewers than MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Already, said Donna Speciale, president of ad sales for CNN’s parent, Turner Broadcasting, CNN has hosted executives from various media agencies in recent days, touting not only the new primetime series, but CNN Money, the financial-news web site that recently came under CNN’s aegis after being shared with Time Inc.; CNN’ s political coverage; new efforts at sister cable network HLN; and digital efforts.

Zucker said advertisers could expect a stable lineup on CNN’s U.S. network after watching the network experiment for some time with new programs and concepts. “Our lineup is set now. It has been set now for several months,” he said. “We feel really good about where we are. We are stable. We are confident, and we are successful.”

Bell will host “United Shades of America,” a documentary series that looks at different cultures in the United States with provocative humor. Aslan will lead “Believer,” a series CNN is billing as a “spiritual adventure series” in which the author will immerse himself in the rituals of various faith-based cultures. “Shades” is produced by Objective Productions, part of All3Media, while “Believer” is produced by Whalerock Industries.

CNN’s original films include “Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine,” directed by Alex Gibney. The movie takes a candid look at the former leader of Apple and is set to premiere at the film festival at SXSW in Austin on March 14. “Unseen Enemy,” directed and produced by Janet Tobias, will explore virulent viruses and bacteria that could start a global epidemic. The movie is slated to reach theaters in the fall of 2015.

“Sunshine Superman” is directed by Marah Strauch and profiles skydiver Carl Boenish through archival footage, aerial filmed photography and filmed re-enactments. An untitled film directed by Jenny Carchman will look at James Arthur Ray, a self-help guru who spent two years in prison after three people died in a retreat he led in Sedona, Arizona. An untitled biography directed by Lydia Tengalia will focus on celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower.






More TV

  • Barry Killing Eve Pose

    'Barry,' 'Killing Eve,' 'Pose' Among 2019 Peabody Winners (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Americans,” “Barry,” “The End of the F***ing World,” “The Good Place,” “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” “Killing Eve,” “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” “Pose” and “Random Acts of Flyness” have been named the entertainment winners at this year’s Peabody Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. Additionally, “Sesame Street” has been named the winner of the Institutional Award [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

  • PBS, Walter Presents Air Belgian Crime

    PBS, Walter Presents to Air Belgian Crime Drama 'Professor T' Nationwide (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS Distribution and Walter Presents are set to bring Belgian crime drama “Professor T” to audiences across the U.S. “Professor T” will be the second international title distributed under the Walter’s Choice banner, the partnership between PBS Distribution, the home video arm of PBS, and streaming service Walter Presents, which brings non-English language drama to [...]

  • Wendy Williams' Husband Kevin Hunter Will

    Kevin Hunter Out as Executive Producer on 'The Wendy Williams Show'

    Kevin Hunter is out as an executive producer of “The Wendy Williams Show” on the heels of Williams’ announcement that she plans to file for divorce from her husband of 22 years. “Kevin Hunter is no longer an executive producer on ‘The Wendy Williams Show,’ ” said a spokesperson for the daytime talk show, produced [...]

  • Mueller Report Released: Networks Cut the

    Networks Curb Their Enthusiasm, William Barr Flexes as Mueller Report Goes Public

    The run-up to Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the conduct of President Donald Trump suggested it was just one component part of a busy news day, something close to business as usual. And the broadcast — in which Barr stormily defended the President as [...]

  • BBC Studios, ZDF Form Development and

    BBC Studios, ZDF Form Development and Co-Production Partnership

    BBC Studios and German pubcaster ZDF have formed a strategic partnership to develop and co-produce “world-class content,” the two companies announced Thursday. The new long-term partnership will bring BBC Studios, the British pubcaster’s commercial arm, and ZDF together to co-develop scripted TV series, such as “The Mallorca Files,” created by Dan Sefton. Both companies will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content