To try to lure viewers to CNN in prime time, he is turning over the 9 o’clock hour — which had been devoted to talk since the days of Larry King—to high-quality (and expensive) original entertainment programming. Over the past year, CNN has rolled out nonfiction series like The Sixties, produced by Tom Hanks, and documentaries such as the SeaWorld exposé Blackfish. Currently, the highest-rated show on CNN is the weekly travel program hosted by Anthony Bourdain. On September 28, the network launched a series with Lisa Ling; this week brings the debut of Mike Rowe. By next year, Zucker will have a dozen original series and six documentaries in CNN’s schedule. He even developed fictional scripts based on historical events, though those projects were ultimately scrapped. “We’re doing some things that antagonize people who are so protective of the legacy of CNN,” he said. “We have to change.”
The CNN chief acknowledges that big, chaotic breaking news is good news for the network.