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.
They’ve had too much success with their news channel. Their propaganda helped get Obama elected twice and now that he’s implementing his healthcare plan it’s destroying everyone in it’s path even them. Their job is done.
So will every airport in the world now change channels?
They’re hanging their hopes on Anthony Bourdain?
His travel show only worked because it shows him getting drunk or eating weird crap in all corners of the globe.
Nobody actually gives a crap what he thinks. He’s just another Noo Yawkah smart-ass jerk. There’s no deficit of those on TV, ever.
So much for propaganda as a growth industry. The last time I watched CNN was election night in 2004 to watch Wolf Blitzer continue to predict W’s loss after every other network had called it for him. He was like Ahab on the back of the white whale.
“Yep. HLN even stated this week it is going to focus on more entertainment based programming. More dumbing down of America....just what we needed...less information about the real issues and more focus on the bullshit to numb the population into thinking everything is A-OK.”
my wife watches “ellen”. makes me want to vomit. those robots in the audience applaud like chimps when someone says something like they have a same sex partner or any other garbage like that.
If you can’t beat ‘em, go play a different game, eh CNN?
Oh, I know it. Hippy lib relatives eat that carp up, take it for the gospel truth.
I always respected Candy Crowley but I think she killed the network.
I have zero respect for Bourdain.
A worthless ‘yes’ man.
Others describe the food, he nods.
But..what a gig.
“So will every airport in the world now change channels?”
That was the first thing that popped into my head. It would be a blessing to wait for my plane with no CNN driving me to dig out my headset. I expect it’ll be replaced with Al Jazeera.
Ministry of Love finds no one listening to propaganda Communist News Network.
I cannot remember the last time I watched it. 9/11 maybe.
I thought the same thing.
They could put on the ‘Flying Toasters’ screen saver 24/7.
I liked No Reservations quite well. I’d already noticed that the new Bourdain show on CNN, Parts Unknown, seems to have more of a political commentary edge to it. This is not an improvement, and if it continues, will lose me as a Bourdain viewer.
Verbage is not needed here. CNN is on life support and will not recover!!! “Crossfire” is the biggest joke yet. Van Jones.....moron!!! Hey.....CNN....no one is watching your daily farce. For a fair and nominal fee....I will gladly take over and have your rated “top of the heap” in twelve months!!!
If CNN started reporting the news honestly and stop being just another arm of the DNC, they would rapidly sweep the ratings and become #1. FAUX has pretty much abandoned the field because of their corporate masters so the news field is nearly wide open again.
Since CNN is part of Time Warner they should produce and air popular TV Shows that TNT canceled due to ratings that were 'this close' but just didn't make it against competition (or goofy management decisions), but on CNN they would get triple or quadruple whatever ratings their best *news* program had.So there ya go Time Warner, a money maker for CNN.
The first one to be reborn into production could be 'Monday Mornings'. That show rocked, had a loyal following, and its cancellation was a shock. But drop that pc BS from scripts, that last episode was right from the DEA and Obama.
But an an even better example of a show that should live on is... Southland! Somebody was smoking crack while shooting up heroin laced with LSD when they canceled that.
Or.. to test the waters show re-runs of the shows. Southland disappeared into never never land (WTF over?) And Monday Mornings..it's like it never existed.
Willing to do anything except recognize the truth, it seems.