- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

CNN, the once-mighty cable-television news network that critics say has grown "stale" and "stuffy," will lighten up in an attempt to lure away the viewers tuning into its flashier rivals.
The Cable News Network plans to introduce bolder graphics and new shows and anchors in coming months.
Sister channel CNN Headline News is getting a similar makeover, which will debut Monday.
The changes will allow the 21-year-old CNN to spice up its storytelling and draw the young viewers advertisers crave, executives say. But they stress the network won't become a carbon copy of newer rival Fox News Channel, which carries irreverent shows like "The O'Reilly Factor" that have eaten away at the cable-news audience CNN virtually owned until five years ago.
"I want smart people telling interesting tales, not people whose natural instinct is to give you their opinions," new CNN chief Walter Isaacson told television reporters in Pasadena, Calif., last month.
The audience for news on cable TV is getting bigger, but CNN's viewership is growing more slowly than chief rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.
From Jan. 1 through July 22, an average 319,000 viewers tuned into CNN a day, compared with 282,000 viewers for Fox News and 222,000 viewers for MSNBC, Nielsen said. CNN's numbers are up 3.1 percent over the comparable period last year, but numbers for Fox News have more than doubled, and MSNBC's numbers are up 25.6 percent.
CNN's revenue is growing more slowly as well, according to media research firm Paul Kagan Associates. Last year, Fox News Channel generated $111.7 million in revenue, a 98.6 percent increase from 1996, its first year in business. Together, CNN and CNN Headline News generated $793.2 million in revenue last year, just 24 percent more than in 1996, Kagan said.
Since January, CNN has laid off about 400 employees as part of its integration into the AOL Time Warner Inc. media empire.
The parent company says fixing the network is a top priority. CNN and its sister channels which include TBS Superstation and the Cartoon Network provide AOL Time Warner with about 10 percent of its cash flow, according to Wall Street analysts.
In March, the media giant installed veteran Hollywood executive Jamie Kellner the former programming chief of the Fox and WB broadcast networks to oversee CNN and 10 related channels, including TBS, Cartoon Network, TNT and Turner Classic Movies. Mr. Isaacson, a former Time magazine editor, was brought aboard in July as the network's chief executive.
Since Mr. Kellner arrived, the network has rehired the popular Lou Dobbs as host of "Moneyline," the nightly business show Mr. Dobbs left in 1999 after repeatedly clashing with network executives who have since departed.
CNN Headline News, meanwhile, has recruited actress-turned-journalist Andrea Thompson to co-anchor its evening news-
CNN also has lured ABC News anchor Aaron Brown to host a prime-time newscast that is expected to debut in October.
Eventually, the network plans to move the show to a street-level New York studio that will be similar to sets used on several broadcast news shows, such as NBC's "Today." The studio also will be home to a "Today"-style morning show that CNN hopes to introduce next summer.
Mr. Kellner has said longer-range plans could include luring a broadcast network news star like Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer to CNN. He also has talked about broadening the network's news-gathering operation by merging it with CBS' or ABC's news divisions, although few industry insiders expect that to happen.
CNN hopes the changes will help it attract the younger viewers advertisers desire. Forty-three percent of its viewers are 65 or older, and only 9 percent fall in the key 18 to 34 age demographic, according to television research firm TN Media Inc.
Eighteen percent of MSNBC's viewers are between 18 and 34 years old, as are 12 percent of Fox News Channel's, TN Media said.
"We want a broader audience. [Attracting younger viewers is] not going to be the driving force behind every programming decision, but clearly a bigger audience means more younger viewers," said Sid Bedingfield, CNN's executive vice president and general manager.
Until now, CNN has clung to delivering straightforward news at a time when rivals like Fox News Channel and MSNBC have embraced freewheeling talk shows and slick magazine shows, said Stacey Lynn Koerner, an analyst for TN Media Inc.
This has helped give CNN its "stuffy" image and hampered the network's ability to hold onto younger viewers, she said.
"There's no doubt that when people want to get the news, they tune into CNN. The problem is that they tune out a few minutes after they find out what's going on," Ms. Koerner said.
Derek Baine, an industry analyst for Paul Kagan Associates, said CNN's long history will be an asset in its bid to reclaim viewers. "It has a great brand name. Everyone knows who CNN is," he said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide