CNN on June 17 debuted its revised morning-news show, New Day, anchored by Chris Cuomo, formerly of ABC newsmagazine 20/20, and former CNN correspondent Kate Bolduan, to decent ratings results.
Through June 18, the 6-9 a.m. show averaged 293,000 viewers, up 7% over the same two-day period a week prior but still well short of the audience of its timeslot competitors, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Critics after day one offered reviews that were mixed between complimentary and panning: Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times pronounced New Day “an earnest, news-driven operation with more diligence than panache.”
Before the debut, Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead spoke with Cuomo and Bolduan about their plans and expectations for New Day, and their thoughts on CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker.
MCN: Chris, how has the transition from broadcast TV to CNN been for you?
Chris Cuomo: I’ve been very lucky. I’m in a place that really believes in trying to create a platform in the morning as the beginning of their day, so that they can have better continuity in programming and, you know, just create strength in more areas. So I couldn’t ask for better.
MCN: How would you determine a success for New Day? Ratings? The number of stories you break? Social media buzz?
Kate Bolduan: I think it’s a little bit of all of the above. You don’t get into morning TV and ask for less viewers, that’s for sure. We’re here, and we want to be competitive and we want people to watch. We want people to want to hear the news that we’re delivering, and hear the interviews and the guests that we’re going to be having on. But to get there, we’re not going to be focused on short-term gain; we’re going to be focused on long-term growth and long-term development. And that’s something that I know that Chris and I both feel that there is some support in the flexibility for this show to grow and for us to grow viewership in this time period.
MCN: How has Jeff Zucker influenced CNN and how has he changed the culture at the news network?
CC: Well, I think this is fairly comprehensive. Certainly, he is looking to become much more aggressive and make CNN a place that you can go to any time for various interests. Obviously, when you have the perceived guru of morning television in Mr. Zucker, he wants this, he understands this space very well, but he also understands a lot of spaces very well. And he has not been heavy-handed. He put really capable people in positions to run the show, and he hired a bunch of grownups to be on-air and do the show.
All of us know how to do the job; we all know what happens when the red light goes on. We all know the vagaries of reporting. None of us are intimidated by the task in front of us. In fact, the big reason I came … I had it good, let’s be honest. Being the anchor of 20/20 and ABC News, you went to the stories that mattered, you worked with the best in the business. It’s the challenge of the ups and downs and the unknown, the excitement of creating something new that I’m looking forward to. So, it’s great to have Jeff Zucker as someone who’s looking over the shoulder in the position of leadership who understands the space so well.
KB: Coming from the perspective of being with the company before Jeff , there really is a real feeling of reinvigoration from the top down all the way through the ranks; a sense of excitement and energy and really getting back to our core news philosophy. Pardon the pun, but it really does feel like a new day for CNN and not only just for the show.
MCN: Chris, you were quoted last month as saying that you suffered through huge growing pains since moving over to CNN. What did you mean by that, and have you worked out those pains?
CC: It’s hard … a different set of anchoring skills. I wanted a challenge and I got it. Everything’s hard, but it’s harder because you’re on more and you have less solid information. You have more requirements on you to extend narratives and filter information and figure out how to bring in people. That’s all tougher.
It’s a different kind of audience — it’s a much more passionate audience base. They’re much more scrutinizing and you have to accept that and understand it. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that you don’t have a lot of network anchors who then go into cable. I think they’re very different rhythms. And I’m enjoying it, frankly. I think it plays to my strength better than network did.
MCN: Kate, how big a transition is it moving to morning?
KB: It’s definitely been very interesting. I’m now [starting] six hours earlier … compared to [when] I was anchoring with Wolf [Blitzer] at 6 p.m. I’m now starting at 6 a.m., and besides the obvious of learning a completely new sleep schedule, I don’t know if you ever get used to it, but you sure do it. [Laughs.]
It’s a different aspect of your personality that comes through. Viewers are expecting you to give more of yourself because it is a more intimate relationship that you have with the viewers at that time of day. And that’s very exciting for me.