Pasadena, Calif. -- Trying to once again accommodate its
core audience of hard-news junkies, Cable News Network is going back to basics as well as
adding more business coverage.
In September, CNN is dropping the magazine format for its
CNN NewsStand and evolving it into a news-oriented show; creating an 8 p.m. nightly
newscast; and adding two-and-a-half hours of business-finance coverage during the day,
officials said at the recent Television Critics Association tour here.
The major schedule overhaul also includes three new daytime
business shows that will be simulcast on CNNfn, which are not meant to undermine or
compete with the financial network, CNN/U.S. president Rick Kaplan said.
"It's not an attempt to do what fn does or to step on
what fn does," Kaplan said. "CNNfn services the market investor
At the TCA tour, as well as at a press briefing in New York
last week, Kaplan explained that CNN's new business coverage is broad and will provide
information typical Americans would be interested in, such as mortgage rates.
"We believe that financial and business news is
critically important to Americans, and it's kind of like what the Cold War was, if you
will, in the '50s and '60s," Kaplan said.
He also described why CNN was abandoning the current
NewsStand magazine format, in which each show was tied to a Time Inc. magazine, such as
Fortune and Entertainment Weekly, with pretaped segments.
The old NewsStand was Kaplan's ill-fated attempt to bring
appointment viewing to CNN, but its ratings were soft and it had an inauspicious debut
when its "Operation Tailwind" story - about the alleged use of nerve gas by the
U.S. military in Laos - had to be retracted.
Time Warner Inc. vice chairman Ted Turner apologized for
the Tailwind story one year ago at the TCA tour.
Among CNN's primetime changes: on Sept. 13 it will premiere
The World Today, an hour-long newscast at 8 p.m. co-anchored by Wolf Blitzer, Joie Chen
and Jim Moret. It will report on domestic and international breaking stories, and its
contributors will include Christiane Amanpour, Jeff Greenfield and Greta Van Susteren.
"It will be the flagship evening-news show of
CNN," Kaplan said, adding that the show will also air a financial update from
Moneyline News Hour's new anchor team, Willow Bay and Stuart Varney, at 8:25 p.m. each
CNN NewsStand will be expanded to air five nights per week
at 10 p.m., as a revamped, more topical and hard-news version of the three NewsStand shows
that now air three nights per week.
Kaplan said the new format will offer a mix of hard or
breaking news at the start of the show, followed by feature stories and analysis that in
some cases will be done in association with CNN's corporate siblings, the Time Inc.
magazines. Willow Bay, Stephen Frazier and Judd Rose will share anchor responsibilities
for the show.
Kaplan said that while he was "proud" of the old
NewsStand concept, it "had a problem" in that it was confusing for viewers to
tune into CNN for breaking news and then see magazine shows on the air instead.
"It was very tough to best serve our core news-viewing
audience by putting a one-subject or one-topic magazine show on," he added.
From January through March, Kaplan said, NewsStand was
pre-empted 50 percent of the time due to breaking news, and its ratings suffered as a
"There is a great deal of difference between audiences
in cable and audiences in broadcast," Kaplan said at the TCA tour, "and a great
deal of the difference is in their needs, and a great deal of the difference is in their
expectations ... CNN's audience is special, and they do expect that kind of [breaking]
When NewsStand was airing at 10 p.m., it was averaging a
0.6 to 0.7 Nielsen Media Research rating, according to CNN officials. But when it was
moved to 8 p.m. earlier this year, and due to the pre-emptions, its numbers dropped to a
0.4 to 0.5.
CNN & Time will remain on Sundays, but will move from 9
p.m. to 8 p.m.
"[CNN] had gotten more featurey over time,"
Foote, Cone & Belding-New York senior vice president and media director Ellen
Oppenheim said. "I've gotten the feeling that they've gotten away from their core
reason for being, and they are now getting back to basics."
In addition to the primetime changes, CNN is significantly
bumping up the amount of financial and business news that it airs, also starting sometime
In daytime CNN will add three shows that will be simulcast
on CNNfn: a new two-hour business-news show, yet to be named, at 5 a.m.; MoneyTalk$, an
hour-long look at the day's top news and business stories, at 11 a.m.; and Street Sweep, a
market wrap-up program, from 3:59 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
"Something like 50 percent of all of the people in
this country have some stock," Kaplan said. "It's not just market we're adding:
We're adding pocketbook."
Kaplan denied that the addition of more financial news to
CNN was a reaction to CNBC's success, or that Lou Dobbs' recent departure was in any way a
response to the changes.
"Lou and I didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,
but it was inevitable that we were going to be doing this," Kaplan said. "And he
was in favor of getting more air for, obviously, his passion, which was business and
A CNBC spokeswoman said last week that her network wasn't
worried about CNN's plans to add more business news.
"Viewers come to CNBC all day long for real-time
analysis and breaking news," she added. "We plan to continue doing what we do
best: covering the market aggressively all day long. We welcome the competition. It keeps
us at the top of our game."
At CNN's other rival, Fox News Channel, senior producer for
primetime Bill Shine said CNN's shifting of NewsStand's time period didn't help the show
to build audience.
"One of the problems CNN has is how to keep people
after Larry King [Live]. It's a problem they have to fix," he added.
Varney and Bay, who also appeared at the TCA tour, debuted
as Moneyline's anchors last week.
Kaplan said last week that CNN's plans for a $25 million ad
campaign - which, for the first time, will include buys on non-Turner Broadcasting System
Inc. networks - will go on as planned.
He added that CNN was forced to compete in that manner
because its all-news rivals buy local spots that air on CNN in New York, trying to lure
away its upscale audience. "It's so untoward to me," Kaplan said. In the past,
CNN would just air cross-channel promos on other Turner networks.
Also at the TCA press tour, CNN named conservative
commentator Mary Matalin as co-host on the right for Crossfire. She debuted on the show
last Thursday, joining Robert Novak and Bill Press.