News about CNN's Problems With Ratings and Programming
CNN's problems with ratings and programming didn't happen overnight with a single mistake. Track the biggest issues CNN has faced which have led to a steady decline in the ratings as it continues to make programming changes in order to rebuild its news brand.
Larry King's Exit from CNN Brings More Uncertainty for the Network
The end of Larry King Live was a watershed moment for CNN. The program ran from 1985-2010 and made King one of the most recognizable faces on television. But in its final years, King's show had stopped becoming buzzworthy and instead became cringe-worthy in the eyes of critics, who said King wasn't keeping up with the changing times. Still, CNN took a risk by moving away from its familiar star with the big glasses and suspenders. Whether it was the right choice to end a multitude of CNN problems is still not clear.
Piers Morgan's CNN Talk Show Debuts to Mixed Reviews
Piers Morgan appeared to have all of the right ingredients when he took over Larry King's time slot in 2011. Morgan has his finger on the pulse of pop culture, he's a master at TV interview skills and he was already a well-known name as a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent. But the chatty Brit still has to prove himself to Middle America and not just the celebrity circuit on both coasts. Unlike King in 1985, he also has to establish himself against popular politically-opinionated shows on Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
With Piers Morgan in place at 9:00 p.m. ET, CNN turned to its 8:00 p.m. prime-time lead-in. Parker Spitzer was meant to rekindle the excitement of the popular Crossfire point-counterpoint debate show from CNN's glory days. Instead, it sputtered before an audience who either was tired of this programming concept or simply didn't like the hosts. With the departure of Kathleen Parker, the show was renamed In the Arena. The show had a chance to improve CNN's Nielsen ratings with the sudden exit of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC.
Once CNN finally decided to pull the plug on Larry King Live, it had no trouble doing the same to Parker Spitzer/In the Arena, which lasted all of eight months under its two names. It got no buzz versus the mammoth The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel and failed to capitalize on the Keith Olbermann departure at MSNBC, where he was the top-rated host. Instead of attempting to launch another new program, CNN simply moved its Anderson Cooper franchise AC 360 into the 8:00 p.m. ET slot as the lead-in to Piers Morgan Tonight.
A presidential election brings new attention to the cable news channels. CNN's historic strength has been covering politics. The 2012 presidential race would test whether viewers want unbiased political reporting, or simply opinionated talk shows that reaffirm their political views. CNN used the opportunity to revamp its morning newscasts, replacing American Morning with two shows, Early Start and Starting Point. All the upheaval has yet to bring results to the long list of CNN problems.
It was thought that the reason behind CNN problems was because its programming was stale. But after repeated launches, relaunches and retooling, the ratings show CNN has made little if any progress. Viewers didn't return in meaningful numbers to watch coverage of the 2012 presidential race. After making major changes in prime time and in the mornings, CNN doesn't have many options that haven't already been tried. Fox News Channel has staked its brand on conservative politics, while MSNBC is positioning itself more and more as the liberal-leaning alternative. That leaves CNN in the middle, with a difficult brand management strategy.
The dumpster of CNN problems continues to fill. John King, USA is the latest prime-time show to be discarded, which had been the replacement for Lou Dobbs when he bailed from the cable channel. That puts new pressure on Piers Morgan to perform. But Morgan is coming under scrutiny in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal from his days as a newspaper editor. He denies involvement. Given CNN's ratings, which have hit a 20-year low, having Morgan's name mentioned at least brings a dose of publicity.
CNN Comes Under Fire from U.S. State Department
CNN's ratings crisis may become a full-fledged media crisis involving the federal government. The U.S. State Department is blasting CNN for revealing the existence of a journal that belonged to a U.S. ambassador who was killed in an attack in Libya. CNN says the journal contained information that raised questions about whether the ambassador was on a hit list and whether the U.S. State Department did enough to protect him and other Americans who were killed. This controversy underscores CNN's strength in news reporting, especially at the international level. With increasing global tensions, CNN has the chance to show off its hard-news roots.
When Jay Leno retires from NBC's The Tonight Show in 2014, he will be widely sought after because of his popularity, humor that's never mean-spirited and his ability to connect with Middle America. That track record which has been more than two decades in the making could lead CNN to try to court him to its struggling prime-time schedule. Besides being a stand-up comedian, Leno is also a skilled interviewer. What's more, he knows CNN President Jeff Zucker from their time together at NBC.