CNN Shifting to ‘More Shows and Less Newscasts,’ Zucker Wants ‘An Attitude and a Take’

In an era when newspapers are dying, broadcast evening news programs are shedding viewers, and there's less and less real news being disseminated that isn't just opinion, CNN president Jeff Zucker thinks his network "need(s) more shows and less newscasts."

Zucker also told Capital New York Tuesday that he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.” [...]

“We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

In Zucker's view, the market for cable news isn't growing. Therefore, CNN, FNC, HLN, and MSNBC are just vying for the same eyeballs. And that means limited growth:

He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

“People who traditionally just watch the cable news networks [are] a great audience,” he said. “I'm not trying to alienate that audience. But the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we're doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”

What leads Zucker to think "more shows and less newscasts" is the right move?

The No. 1 show on CNN is now “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” a travel-adventure show featuring the bad-boy celebrity chef. Zucker said that inside CNN, his formula has finally been accepted “because people have seen the results.”

So CNN is changing its format because of the so-called success of Bourdain's vulgar show?

Consider that the first season finale last June brought in 460,000 total viewers and 208,000 in the all important demographic of people aged 25-54.

Such numbers at Fox News would be considered a disaster. I guess Zucker has his sights set much lower than Roger Ailes.


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