New York -- Looking to capitalize on one of its key brands,
Cable News Network is expanding Moneyline with Lou Dobbs to one hour and broadening
its coverage to include general news, and not just financial news, officials said last
The reformatted show, Moneyline News Hour with Lou Dobbs,
will debut today (June 22) at 6:30 p.m., and it is meant to compete with the broadcast
networks' early evening newscasts, said Rick Kaplan, president of CNN/U.S. For the
past 18 years, anchor/executive Dobbs has had a half-hour program that aired at 7 p.m.,
covering strictly business and financial news.
"This is really the best kind of appointment viewing
that CNN can offer," Kaplan said. "There's a disconnect that's growing
[with broadcast news] ... You'll see in MoneylineNews Hour a
traditional, solid news broadcast."
The change in Dobbs' show marks one of the most
dramatic moves that Kaplan, a veteran of ABC News, has made at CNN since coming on board a
year ago. His mandate is to create "appointment" programming at CNN -- regular
shows that will draw an audience for CNN even when there isn't big breaking news,
like the Gulf War.
At a press conference at the Four Seasons restaurant here,
Dobbs, CNN's executive vice president and president of CNNfn, conceded that the new,
hour-long show faces a difficult task.
"The challenges are immense," he said. "But
6:30 is a time period that has opportunity ... [and] this gives us more time to cover a
very complex world."
In fact, network news may not be so easy to take on now.
Ellen Oppenheim, media director at FCB New York, said viewership for the broadcast
newscasts has stopped eroding and stabilized this season, after a long decline.
Dobbs, who will continue to take a no-nonsense, hard-news
approach to stories, said the first half-hour of Moneyline News Hour will focus on
general news, with the last half-hour concentrating more on financial news, like the old,
30-minute version of his show.
Gerald Levin, chairman of CNN's parent, Time Warner
Inc., also attended the press conference, chiming in that Moneyline News Hour will
take a "substantive" approach to the general news that it will now start to
"You will get the news in the Moneyline
fashion," Levin said. "You could call that a brand extension."
To accommodate the program's new expanded scope,
staffing on Moneyline has been doubled, with 18 new people hired already, and the
show will have a new set and graphic look.
"Kaplan is highlighting the existing talent,"
said Bob Igiel, executive vice president and director of broadcast buying and programming
at Young & Rubicam Inc. "He is taking Dobbs, a great asset, and doing more with
him. And Kaplan is revitalizing CNN's news heritage and its insight into the
Moneyline has been one of CNN's most lucrative
shows in terms of premium ad rates because of its upscale audience. In the first quarter,
boosted by the Monica Lewinsky story, Moneyline averaged a 0.6 rating, according to
Nielsen Media Research. Year to date, the show is averaging a 0.5 rating, which is what
Larry Goodman, president of CNN sales and marketing, is guaranteeing advertisers for the
new Moneyline News Hour.
CNN Worldview -- which had aired from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.,
and which will be pared back by a half-hour -- averaged a 0.5 in the first quarter,
CNN is still feeling the repercussions of the
"appointment" shows that Kaplan debuted earlier this month -- the three CNN
NewsStand news-magazine programs. Last week, retired Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, a military
analyst for CNN, quit over a June 7 story that aired on Newsstand: CNN & Time,
which alleged that U.S. forces used nerve gas to kill American defectors in Laos during
the Vietnam War. Smith insisted that the story wasn't true, but CNN is standing by