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Posts Tagged ‘Reese Schonfeld’

Following Ratings Stumble, CNN Plots Revised Course

“There will be changes.”

It was broadcast upfront week, and amid the chaos and the talk of CBS’s schedule and the fate of “30 Rock,” the discussion had shifted to CNN. A media buyer for one of the top firms told me that in a conversation with a senior executive at Time Warner, there was an expectation that CNN would be tweaking its programming, an effort to combat ratings fatigue.

In a terse statement earlier this month, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said that he and others at the company were “clearly not satisfied” with CNN’s situation, and promised that action would be taken to rectify it.

That situation–at least in the primetime ratings–is grim. Last week the channel had its lowest weekly primetime in total viewers in at least 20 years, and it did not do much better in the adults 25-54 demo that cable news actually sells against. May sweeps and the NBA playoffs probably had something to do with that, but sweeps aren’t enough to explain a 20-year low. Unless an unexpected news event happens, it will likely end up being another rough month for CNN ratings-wise when the final numbers come in next Tuesday.

“Obviously this is an indictment of their lineup, it is not working,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media.

Adgate, who used to work in the research department at CNN and Turner,  says that for a political year ratings across cable news have been relatively flat. CNN saw ratings boosts earlier this year, when there were debates and primaries, but since then things have quieted down. TV viewers that are interested in the day-to-day political scuffles are almost by definition going to be partisan, and there are cable news channels tailored just for them.

“It was the first news network, it does have a great reputation and a great global brand name for the casual news viewer, but those aren’t the people who are going to watch debt news on a regular basis,” Adgate says. “The news is still the star at CNN and it isn’t necessarily the star at other cable news networks.”

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Liza McGuirk Named EP of Upcoming Eliot Spitzer – Kathleen Parker Show

McGuirk_7.30.jpgOne of the CNN originals, Liza McGuirk has been named executive producer of CNN’s still-unnamed 8pmET debate show with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. McGuirk has been EP of “Fareed Zakaria: GPS” since its launch in May 2008.

McGuirk joined CNN as one of the original staffers in 1980. She stayed until 1989 before moving on to CBS News where she worked on “60 Minutes” for four years. McGuirk is married to Kevin Magee who is the EVP of Fox Business Network.

The news was first reported last night by New York Magazine.

> Related: In a recent story on CNN’s ratings, former CNN executive Reese Schonfeld called Zakaria’s show, “by far the most intelligent news talk show on television.”

> Update: Press release after the jump. McGuirk, “After working with Fareed Zakaria, I’m delighted to be working with two people, Eliot and Kathleen, who are truly his equals at exploring the world of intelligent ideas. Most of all, I look forward to bringing that kind of elevated discussion to primetime.”

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The New Yorker Weighs In On CNN

SpitzerParker_6.23.jpg The New Yorker has tackled CNN’s primetime woes… fashionably late, it seems.

Nancy Franklin discusses the new 8 p.m. program, which will be hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, as well as the the presumed successor to Larry King at 9 p.m., Piers Morgan. She also discusses CNN’s problems more broadly:

CNN is now perceived to be a loser, not just quantitatively but qualitatively, overshadowed by two loudmouth networks, one partisan by calculation, the other by imitation. CNN has tried to carry on as a genuine news outlet, but something’s not working…

When I asked [CNN US President Jon Klein] whether he had any reservations about Spitzer’s character, or worried that significant numbers of viewers (such as this one) thought of him as noxious and, on principle, unwatchable, he didn’t answer directly, saying, “As soon as we see the actual show”-it will debut in early October-”viewers will find out that it’s the kind of show that cable has been missing.”

But what cable has been missing, many argue, is committed, enterprising reporting, except when there’s a war or a natural disaster.

Franklin also spoke to former CNN chief Reese Schonfeld, who has been quite critical of the network’s current strategy, as well as Robert Thompson from Syracuse University about the 8 p.m. program:

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‘Crossfire’ Creator On CNN’s New 8 p.m. Show: ‘I Can’t Think of a Worse Idea’

cnn_crossfire_1992a062510.jpg Lots of people have compared CNN’s new 8 p.m. program featuring Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker to the canceled debate show “Crossfire.” Now you can add the man who created “Crossfire” to that list. Reese Schonfeld, CNN’s first president and the man who created the original “program in 1982, says of the new show “to be blunt, I can’t think of a worse idea.”

Schonfeld, writing in a blog for the Huffington Post, recalls the original concept behind the program, which at the time featured Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden. The idea was, the day’s top newsmaker would appear on the show, and Buchanan and Braden would pepper them with questions from the right and the left, “the guest would be caught in the crossfire,” Schonfeld recalls.

CNN was created as a news network, and the 10pm hour, where the Crossfire show had been originally scheduled, was supposed to make news. By interviewing the protagonist of the day’s leading story, we hoped we could get him to say something that would advance the story by at least one news cycle, and have everybody quoting us in the next day’s newspaper. The guest was supposed to deliver fresh information, not controversy. Unfortunately, for twenty years, Crossfire shed more heat than light, and I suspect Spitzer-Parker will do the same.

Schonfeld also recalls that CNN founder Ted Turner hated the original concept, but had to move it to a prime spot at 7:30 pm.. because it became such a big hit.

He also weighs in on Spitzer and Parker:

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What’s Next For David Gregory?

Gregory_7.23.jpgThe NYObserver’s Felix Gillette takes a moment from Sunday’s Meet the Press, and ponders whether David Gregory has become NBC’s “lame duck.” Gillette observes that Gregory, NBC’s long-serving White House correspondent, may not be doing himself any favors by anchoring MSNBC’s Race for the White House if his true aspiration is to be the next moderator of Meet the Press. Gillette talks with several TV insiders and veterans about Gregory’s future with the network:

Ken Auletta, The New Yorker: “If you think he has real talent-and boy he does, he’s a good ad-libber, he’s good on his feet-you would think that NBC would think twice about building that brand before they mix news with opinion. On the other hand, if he does not develop an opinion voice, is he vanilla as an anchor on MSNBC?”

Andrew Tyndall, the Tyndall Report: “It’s not particularly good practice for Meet the Press, where you’re having formal interviews with newsmakers. I don’t think he ever has newsmakers on there. The function of the show is to showcase NBC’s in-house political analysts. There’s not much heavy lifting there for him to do. His current job is merely debriefing.”

Steve Friedman, former NBC & CBS morning show exec.: “I think David Gregory views himself as a news anchor, and I think that’s where his future is. You have to choose what’s open.”

Reese Schoenfeld, former CNN president: “I don’t think David Gregory should waste his talents becoming an anchorman. I think he’s a terrific reporter. But I don’t know if he’s anything more than a normal anchor guy.”

Of course, it was Schoenfeld who banned a young Katie Couric from CNN’s air after disapproving of her high-pitched voice.