In an interview with The Wrap, CNN executive vice president Mark Whitaker takes an optimistic view of the network’s current status, and its future.
CNN, which is coming off a 20-year low in primetime ratings in May, is still struggling to find an audience for shows that are from a center-left perspective and which tend to be rather boring, when compared to shows on Fox News or MSNBC.
The network has taken some action to try and stem the ratings decline by expanding Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room an extra hour while jettisoning the bland John King USA. But they still haven’t found anyone who can attract an audience like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow.
Yet despite the ratings failures, Whitaker vows to stick to the middle.
“CNN could not prosper by continuing to function as the place where people are learning about news for the first time,” he said. “We absolutely have to be providing extra value for people who we assume are likely to already know what’s been going on, or at least the headlines.”
But CNN refuses to turn to what Whitaker calls “partisan” analysis — “or sometimes just ranting.”
Whitaker says that both Fox and MSNBC are just “preaching to the choir.” That may be, but at the same time they are also drawing ratings that have relegated CNN to third and sometimes fourth place in the ratings.
The Wrap quoted one news executive from another network who said that CNN is still stuck in the 1980’s, which isn’t going to cut it in today’s fast paced news cycle.
“They’re doing the same kind of coverage they’ve done since 1980. They’ve got their head in the sand: ‘We’re going to give you headlines all day long,'” the executive said. “The media revolution is taking place all around them, and they didn’t change.”
Viewers today can get their news from countless sources besides their televisions, the executive said, so networks need to do more than break news.
Whitaker tries to dismiss CNN’s U.S. problems by relating an anecdote from Libya during the uprising last year against dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
“And in unison, thousands of people started chanting ‘CNN, CNN, CNN,'” he said. “People around the world really appreciate what we stand for, and what we do.”
That may be the case in this instance, but the ratings show that at least domestically, CNN is in shambles and the network’s executives really don’t know what to do programming-wise to become competitive again.