CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker told Ad Age that his plans for the struggling network include a prime time shake-up in 2014:
It’s safe to say 2014 will be the year we shake up prime time.
Zucker, who took over last January, experienced a series of ups and downs as he tinkered with CNN’s lineup. He added personnel from ABC, revamped the morning program and rebooted the once popular Crossfire.
The results were mixed, as CNN beat MSNBC in Total Day viewership, but finished a distant third in prime time.
Crossfire, which Zucker had hoped to potentially develop into a prime time program, has struggled since its debut, and is more likely to be canceled rather than expanded and moved into a prime time slot.
The problem for CNN and Zucker is that he is a year late in talking about shaking things up in prime time. When he took over, the prime time lineup was in terrible shape, ratings wise. Instead of trying to fix it, however, Zucker chose to attack the morning and afternoon lineups, which have seen some improvement. But they weren’t suffering as much as the evening programs.
In the meantime, Fox News restructured its prime time lineup, and has only grown stronger, while MSNBC’s move of Chris Matthews from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. has added to the challenge Zucker now faces.
Zucker might even go in another direction, since he said in an interview last month that he wanted more shows and fewer newscasts. That is an indication he may be inclined to add more shows to the lineup like Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, rather than more shows with talking heads. The reality is that Zucker went after the low-hanging fruit when he first arrived. But now that he’s faced with the monumental task of fixing CNN’s prime time woes, he doesn’t have a clue as to what it will take to make the network more competitive with Fox News and MSNBC, though he might be able to compete with the Travel Channel or the Food Network.
It makes me think that they should have brought Ted Turner back instead of hiring Zucker.