Skip to comments.CNN on spending spree to rebuild channel (Throws In Towel On News Biz)
Posted on 11/08/2013 6:54:00 PM PST by My Favorite Headache
CNN is planning a substantial investment in new programming, with a heavy emphasis on acquiring unscripted shows by outside producers in the vein of Anthony Bourdains Parts Unknown and films like Blackfish.
The strategy, which is now being touted to analysts and investors, will hamper CNN's revenue but is meant to shore up its viewership in key demographics and reduce its dependence on coverage of big breaking news stories to attract viewers and advertisers.
As a start, Bourdain may be getting a CNN talk show on top of his Sunday evening "Parts Unknown" program.
A live special to be hosted by Bourdain this coming Sunday, following the season finale of Parts Unknown, is being treated internally at the news channel as a pilot. If the special, dubbed Last Bite, receives a warm reception from viewers and CNN executives, it could become a series of its own.
The special will air live from a former liquor store in Las Vegas at 10 p.m., and will see Bourdain and guests talking about issues like guns in America and food sustainability.
A Bourdain-hosted panel program is not the only new program in development. A source at a New York-based production company says that CNN is actively pursuing programs in a variety of unscripted formats, including other travel shows, and immersive nonfiction programs. CNN staff have also been very aggressive at worldwide film festivals, wooing filmmakers and acquiring rights to documentaries for its CNN Films banner.
There is a growing appetite for outside material, one CNN source says.
News of the acquired programming expansion is based on discussions with two people familiar with the plans, and backed up by comments made by Time Warner executives on the companys third quarter earnings call yesterday.
Those executives have been for the last few years touting CNNs record profits, but with the earnings release yesterday the message shifted decidedly from one about profit to one about investment.
We are investing at CNN, part of a strategic decision to broaden it beyond politics and breaking news, Time Warner C.E.O. Jeff Bewkes said on a call with investors. These programming investments will put pressure on its margins, but will bring new advertisers to CNN.
In fact Time Warner C.F.O. John Martinwho will take over Turner Broadcasting in Januarycautioned investors that as a result of the investments, CNN may not see income growth for years.
Financially, we don't break out network by network, but I will tell you directionally, CNNs operating income this year is down, and that is because of proactive decisions by [CNN president] Jeff Zucker and the new team there to try and invest in the programming in many, many dayparts, Martin said. Going forward, we will continue to evaluate what the right level of investment is for CNN. The expectation is going to be on a multi-year basis this thing is going to go back to growth.
While breaking news is still CNNs bread and butter, formats like Parts Unknown and Morgan Spurlocks Inside Man, as well as films like Blackfish, tend to be more reliably popular with young viewers. Cable news viewership skews old, but Bourdain often tops its cable news competition among viewers 18-49 and viewers 25-54, the two key sales demographics. Blackfish crushed all of the competition in those demos when it aired.
MSNBC is trying to lure younger viewers with programs hosted by Alec Baldwin and Ronan Farrow, while Fox News is using Megyn Kelly and a revamped Shepard Smith program to do the same thing.
For now, the investment in acquired programming bodes well for Zucker, who took over CNN earlier this year. The multi-year timeframe for revenue growth mentioned on the call suggests that Zucker will not be going anywhere for quite some time.
But the acquired programming also creates some uncertainty for CNN staff. Bourdain and Spurlocks programs are not actually produced by CNN, but rather by outside production companies. The more hours of CNN programming that these acquired programs fill, the less need there may be down the line for some in-house staff, a possibility not lost on employees there.
Oh, wait... They have that now right here!
If they would go the route of providing straight unbiased news along with good investigative reporting on important news, they could take the lead, IMO. We need a news organization that will take the lead on moving news gathering with honesty and integrity.
Just look at the topics in which they could be of great service to the public - Obamacare, NSA, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, etc. There is so much meat on which to chew - and we are hungry for answers from reporters we trust.
The New Prez at CNN was the old Pres at NBC Entertainment, that wrote Obama’s Styrofoam Columns speech.
So CNN is going “MSNBC”. Imagine that one, eh?
Will the new CNN slogan be “Bend Over??? ... err, I mean “Lean Forward”?
Bourdain is an admitted lib, but he does have one of the best jobs in the world. Travel and eat . that is my kinda dream job.
The elephant in the room is the top cable news show is FOX. I believe FOX presents what the public wants in a fair and balanced manner. They just don’t hold back on the Liberals and their idiocy like CNN does.
So, maybe CNN needs to clean up it’s News and go fair and balanced like FOX. Get rid of all your News presenters and News shapers who’s spouses work for the administration instead of trying to be more like the Discovery Channel.
Can u imagine FreeRepublic TV? Or DrudgeTV?
Who should we copy, Fox or MSNBC?
I agree, MSNBC
All in favor? Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye.
OK, start programming.
Here’s a novel idea. Do your job and report the truth in an objective manner.
That's crazy talk.
Is that you, Shep?
He is a foul mouthed snarky smug limo liberal who I can barely stand to listen to and CNN wants to put more of him on there. God. The worst.
LOL. His new show at 3 pm from his set from the Spaceship Enterprise is pretty bad ass. The News Deck. He called it the News Dick one day by accident while talking pretty quickly...love when he slips up.
Maybe they decided to copy the Comedy Channel?
No joke here, I'm talking about faux anchormen like John Stewart or Steven Colbert. Laugh if you like but some people actually get their news from "journalists" like Stewart, Colbert or even Bill Maher. Since they're entertainers, they don't have to pretend to be fair or balanced or unbiased.
“Blackfish” was terrific but I was just channel surfing and CNN had a young woman with a totally ruffled,ridiculous skirt about to do some sort of sports show.
Off went the TV.
I totally agree but I would love his fun job.
No need to copy anyone. If they simply returned to simple, unbiased reporting of world, national and important local news large and small, i.e. What, who, when , where, how, with no editorializing, actively, or by omission, they could have remained #1 forever.
Bourdain’s Parts Unknown is an interesting show, if you like your history from an alcoholic, reefer-smoking, liberal whose best days are behind him,
Seriously, his episodes from Copenhagen, Albuquerque and one or two other places were good, while South Africa and Israel were pretty bad. I understand Sunday’s season finale is from Detroit and the promo talked about how circumstances there are getting better. As a Michigander, I want to see it.
That CNN is struggling with its news business just shows how far the mighty can fall. Seems right now that Fox is the only news organization that will be able to sustain a presence on TV for the foreseeable future
You are right.