CNN president Jeff Zucker, commenting on the changes he is making at the network, told TV Newser that a new lineup “will evolve over time,” and that ratings are just one metric the network uses to measure its success:
I think a new lineup will evolve over time. I don’t think we’re going to have a singular day when we’re going to announce a whole new lineup. It’ll evolve.
And evolve it has, very slowly.
In the year-plus since Zucker took the helm at CNN, he has revamped the daytime lineup, adding several former ABC News employees in hopes of bolstering the ratings. While the new shows gave the network an initial bump, it has since reverted back to its formerly tepid numbers.
The primetime lineup, which is in dire need of a makeover, is only now undergoing some changes. It was recently announced that Piers Morgan Live would be ending its run this month, and that the 10 p.m. hour, which had been occupied by AC360 Later, will now become a tryout slot.
Each day of the week will feature a different program, as Zucker tries to find a winning formula.
At least in the short-term, CNN will look more like broadcast television—with its mishmash of shows—than a traditional cable news channel that develops hosts with regular programming.
This experiment may work, but for someone like Don Lemon, who will get a half-hour, weekly show starting on Monday, it will be difficult to build an audience. Most weekday cable news shows are one-hour long, and air nightly, plus CNN is already struggling to attract viewers.
Despite the mishmash of shows and documentaries that will air in the 10 p.m. hour for the time being, Zucker told TV Newser that CNN is committed to news:
The fact is CNN is actually offering more hours of live news programming today than we have at any point in the last five years. So the two [live news and documentaries] are not incompatible. We are always there when news happens. We’re in Ukraine this week, and Crimea, in tremendous numbers, offering round-the-clock coverage, far more than anyone else.
That may be true when it comes to breaking news, but it does seem to conflict with what Zucker said in December when he told Capital New York that “we need more shows and less newscasts.”
Sounds like he doesn’t know what CNN needs.
Zucker also discussed the issue of ratings:
Look, ratings are important, and it’s one of the metrics by which we’re all measured. And there’s no question that we always want better ratings. But the fact is, that’s just one of the ways we measure ourselves.
The fact is that it is the best metric networks have to measure themselves, and the one that advertisers use to decide where to spend their money. So it’s far more important tkan Zucker is admitting.
But that’s understandable, since CNN’s ratings are terrible and haven’t really improved since Zucker took over last year. And they show no signs of improving in the near future.
What CNN needs is bold, decisive action. But instead, Zucker has taken a more haphazard approach that will only ensure that they will remain in the cable-news ratings cellar for some time to come.