Skip to comments.CNN Head Shrugs Off Fox News Ratings Rivalry (CNN Admits Defeat)
Posted on 07/10/2003 8:20:54 PM PDT by Dont Mention the War
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As CNN reshuffles its anchor lineup, the head of the network said on Thursday he cares more about reclaiming CNN's hard-news roots than in regaining ratings supremacy from archrival Fox News Channel.
"I don't get caught up in that," newly installed CNN president Jim Walton said during the cable network's presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
Walton said his chief goal was to gradually build on CNN's own performance as the network seeks to renew itself as the "best ... electronic news organization in the world."
He reiterated CNN's renewed emphasis on presenting straight news while steering away from commentary and the kind of tabloid-style show previously hosted by Connie Chung. Walton pulled the plug on Chung's program after replacing Walter Isaacson as head of the network.
"We might have more tabloid, more sensation more opinion in what we do and our ratings might jump up, but that would hurt the value of what we do," he said.
Walton quickly added that he did not mean to suggest that Fox News was trading on sensationalism. But he seemed to be alluding to Fox in offering a wristwatch analogy to downplay the significance of CNN's No. 2 standing in U.S. cable news ratings. "I really don't think Rolex cares how many watches Timex sells," he said.
Fox News again led all cable news outlets in the second quarter of 2003, with more than half of all prime-time viewership, according to newly released figures from Nielsen Media Research.
Still, Walton insisted that CNN, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., was more profitable, saying, "We make more per 30-second commercial than any of our competitors, by far." He declined to offer figures.
Fox News officials disputed Walton's assertion, saying the News Corp Ltd.-owned network outsold CNN by at least $30 million in the recent "upfront" advertising market.
While CNN may earn more revenue on a per-subscriber basis, or when lumping together its own ad revenues with those from CNN Headline News and over-the-air local news feeds, Fox News brings in more money on a straight network-to-network comparison, said Roger Domal, Fox News' national sales director.
Walton was joined by four members of CNN's new anchor team -- Paula Zahn, Anderson Cooper, Bill Hemmer and former NBC News weekend anchor Soledad O'Brien, who debuted this week as co-host with Hemmer on CNN"s "American Morning."
Zahn recently has moved from her morning roost to prime time as host of a new 8 p.m. program following Cooper's new show at 7 p.m. They are being preceded by Lou Dobbs at 6 p.m. and followed by Larry King and Aaron Brown.
Walton shed little light on how the four evening news anchors will distinguish themselves, but suggested the right mix of news and personality would be key factors in winning viewers. He said Cooper would anchor a "a fast-paced, high-story-count" program with "a very broad range" of topics, while Zahn would host "more of an issues show."
Walton was adamant about one stylistic feature of CNN -- saying that while he "hates" the news ticker that crawls along the bottom of CNN's screen, it would remain because market research shows viewers overwhelmingly like it.
Right after they mentioned this on Fox and friends this AM, they went on and on how their ROLEX watches suck and lose several minutes a day. ROFL.
I guess it depends on whether you want to keep time accurately or prefer to brag to all and sundry about how prestigious and expensive your watch is.
Yeah, right. I'll bet this attitude lasts until Monday.
Send him one: Jack.Cafferty@turner.com.
One thing I always find very interesting about CNN: Whenever one of their anchors puts his/her own comments on the air, it never shows up on CNN's transcripts pag. Jack Cafferty's comments from yeserday that you mention above? Not there. Some sort of snotty commentary Anderson Cooper gave on Monday about Savage being fired from MSNBC? Not there.
I wonder why CNN is hiding this information.
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