Kurtz Questions Whether CNN Business Strategy 'Viable'

May 23rd, 2010 4:06 PM
It's turned into something of a week for TV hosts, if not to bite, then at least to nibble hard on the hands that feed them . . .

First, as noted here, on Friday Joe Scarborough passed along the comment of an unnamed conservative biggie who wondered "what the hell [Rand Paul] was doing on MSNBC?", where during an interview with Rachel Maddow he caused controversy with his comments on the Civil Rights Act.

Today, it was Howard Kurtz's turn.  In the wake of Campbell Brown's withdrawal from CNN, in which she cited her show's poor ratings, Kurtz, host of Reliable Sources also on CNN wondered whether the network's business strategy of offering news in contrast to the opinion-oriented programming on Fox News and MSNBC is "viable."   For good measure, Kurtz also managed to suggest that Brown, Connie Chung and Paula Zahn—all of whose CNN shows failed—weren't strong enough personalities to attract an audience during the 8 PM hour, up against the likes of O'Reilly and Olbermann. Ouch!
HOWARD KURTZ: In recent years, CNN has tried Connie Chung, Paula Zahn, Campbell Brown in that 8 PM Eastern slot.  Has not been winning the ratings war.  Does CNN need stronger personalities?  Is it a viable business strategy when the other guys on the left and right are all full of opinion, and entertainment, to try to stay in the middle?
Kurtz's guest, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik, argued that CNN's strategy is viable  because the network has a largely international business model that derives only 10% of its revenue comes from prime-time US programming.   Kurtz didn't seem completely convinced.
KURTZ: It may be a viable business strategy, but a lot of media attention on prime time, when you don't want to be getting shellacked in prime time.
As with Scarborough, we'll give Kurtz kudos for candor for raising some inconvenient questions about his own network.  And just as I mused what it would be like when Joe and Rachel got together over martinis, what do you think Campbell, Connie and Paula might have to say to Howie next time they meet, about his implication their personalities weren't ready for prime time?