Kaplan Takes First Steps to Revamp CNN

1/11/1998 7:00 PM Eastern

In the first major programming changes under new chief
Richard Kaplan, Cable News Network is revamping its schedule -- especially during the
weekend -- to include more hard news, as well as debuting a new Sunday primetime
documentary series.

As part of the new lineup, which rolled out this week, CNN
is expanding its 8 p.m. weeknight newscast to one hour, calling it The World Today,
anchored by Joie Chen and Martin Savidge. CNN is hoping to lure viewers who arrive home
too late to see earlier network newscasts.

And to make room for an additional four-and-a-half hours of
live news on weekends -- which will appear on new newscasts CNN Saturday and CNN
-- the network has canceled a number of its weekend public-affairs-oriented
programs. Among the shows axed are Crossfire Sunday, Inside Politics Weekends,
Capital Gang Sunday, Future Watch and Computer Connection. Parenting
will become a segment on another morning show.

'Our strategy is to show the best of CNN, to play aces
high,' said Sid Bedingfield, vice president of CNN/USA. 'These [additional]
newscasts will highlight our news-gathering strengths.'

As part of the overhaul, Jim Moret will take over as anchor
of Newsnight at midnight weeknights, which will be the only Los Angeles-based
national newscast. Its coverage will be Pacific Coast- and Asia-oriented for its primetime
audience there, where it airs at 9 p.m. PST.

CNN also shuffled numerous anchors. Senior White House
correspondent Wolf Blitzer will get an added role as a host of Sunday newsmaker program Late
, replacing Frank Sesno. Sesno will co-anchor Newsday from noon to 12:30
p.m. from Washington, D.C.

The changes unveiled last week are the work of ABC News
veteran Kaplan, who joined CNN in August as president of CNN/USA. Kaplan's mandate
was to revive CNN's programming in the face of competition from new rivals such as
Fox News Channel and MSNBC, and to create appointment viewing to sustain the
network's ratings when big news isn't breaking.

To illustrate how CNN has struggled, both its primetime and
total-day adult 18-to-49 delivery numbers sagged last year -- by 4 percent and 8 percent,
respectively -- even as its household penetration kept expanding.

As part of the new schedule, CNN on Jan. 18 will debut CNN
, an hour-long documentary series that will air Sundays at 8 p.m. It will
feature newly commissioned work, as well as documentaries produced by Turner Original
Productions, now named CNN Productions. CNN International correspondent Christiane
Amanpour will host its first three episodes.

The first documentary that will run on CNN Perspectives
is Virus Hunters.And in September, Sir Jeremy Isaac's 24-hour TheCold War will make its world premiere on the series.

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