CNN has decided to abandon plans altogether to fill its 9 p.m. weeknight time slot with a permanent host or opinion leader following the firing of Chris Cuomo more than a year ago, in December 2021.
Instead, the network will present a variety of programming, including a series of special reports, all under the banner of “CNN Primetime” in a shift to what is called “news, not names.”
Such content could include one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, town halls that put government officials in direct contact with the people affected by policy decisions, other “firsts,” the network said.
The move is something of a departure for CNN from having a single host in a regular time slot, like the format at rivals MSNBC where Rachel Maddow hosts or Fox News where Sean Hannity rules the roost at that hour.
CNN’s new approach is part of a larger effort by its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, to position the network as “the place for fact-based reporting and thoughtful discourse,” CEO David Zaslav told investors last week.
CNN introduces a new format for its 9 p.m. after Chris Cuomo’s firing, with the slot now known as “CNN Primetime”
The move is something of a departure for the network from having a single host in a regular time slot, as is the case with MSNBC where Rachel Maddow hosts or Fox News where Sean Hannity is in charge.
CNN’s challenge comes with the knowledge that traditional, straight news programming has generally failed to generate the ratings needed to beat its competitors, both of which rely heavily on opinion- and personality-driven programming.
For 25 years with CNN, the network’s 9 p.m. slot was home to Larry King and his legendary Larry King Live show from 1985 to 2010.
Piers Morgan then took over with his show Piers Morgan Live, but it was shelved in 2014 after being routinely beaten in the ratings by cable competitors for just three years.
CNN’s former boss Jeff Zucker then gave the hour to correspondent Chris Cuomo, whose brash style proved to be a winning formula as he garnered some of the network’s largest audiences.
For 25 years, the network’s 9 p.m. slot was home to Larry King and his legendary Larry King Live show from 1985 to 2010
Piers Morgan then took over with his show Piers Morgan Live, but it was shelved in 2014 after being routinely beaten in the ratings by cable competitors for just three years
Cuomo said he was ready to “kill anyone, including myself” following his impeachment from CNN following the revelation that he advised his brother, the governor, through his sexual harassment scandal
Cuomo was subsequently kicked out of the struggling network in 2021 for his role as an advisor to his brother, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, while battling a sexual misconduct scandal.
It was revealed that Chris used his media connections and contacts to check stories about his brother in the pipeline and send the information back to the governor’s agents.
Since Cuomo’s departure, CNN has rotated several staff members in the slot, including hosts such as Jake Tapper and Michael Smerconish.
Now back behind a desk, Cuomo revealed earlier this month how he thought about “killing everyone, including myself,” in the wake of his ouster from the struggling network.
Cuomo divided his battleOpen book with Anthony Scaramucci,” the podcast hosted by the former White House communications director whose tenure on stage lasted a week and a half.
Chris Cuomo now hosts a show on NewsNation that draws about one-tenth of the viewers on his CNN show
CNN hopes to put the drama behind after the stellar depositions of host Chris Cuomo and network boss Jeff Zucker (above together in 2014)
“I had to accept (CNN’s termination) because I was going to kill everyone, including myself. Things can consume you,” he said.
Cuomo said he “makes a lot of mistakes” and started seeing a therapist after being “s**t-canned” by the higher-ups CNNs.
“There’s harm that’s relatable, there’s harm that’s unrelated to people I’m dealing with, that I’m working on,” he said.
Despite Cuomo telling Scaramucci that he’s working on himself, his hot temper is reportedly still dominating his new appearance at NewsNation, where he has significantly fewer eyeballs on him than he does on CNN.
“Cuomo,” the name of his show, draws less than 100,000 viewers per night, according to the New York Post. Less than a tenth of his million-dollar audience at CNN.
He said that while he wasn’t “the big name” at CNN, his show did well “because I gave people what they needed at the time.”
Now, however, he said he is aware that his audience is “small” and “people don’t want to watch.”
“It’s hard to keep that in perspective because it’s kind of embarrassing,” he told Scaramucci. “I’ll never be (number 1) again.”
‘I believe that was taken, I believe wrongly. I’m going to fight that. I’m not going to whine about it in the press,” he said.
The move to move away from personality-driven programming at 9 p.m. is the latest from CEO Chris Licht, who is trying to boost the network’s appeal
Rather than relying on a single anchor or host, the news center will now fill the 9 p.m. hour with a range of different special reports, including one-on-one interviews or town hall events
The younger Cuomo is suing CNN for more than $60 million over his abrupt firing. He is also believed to be in litigation with HarperCollins, the publisher of his book Deep Denial, which was canceled after his firing.
CNN has made a number of changes since new boss Chris Licht took over.
When Licht took over as chairman and CEO of the network in May 2022, he said he didn’t expect any layoffs, but that story changed in October when he told employees that cost-cutting measures would be implemented that would translate into a number of staff changes and layoffs.
In December, the network laid off hundreds of staff, including on-air talent and employees such as Brian Stelter, John Harwood, Preet Bharara, Dan Merica, Alison Kosik and Chris Cillizza.
Licht described at a town hall meeting that “this is an organization that’s had battle after battle after battle,” adding, “most organizations wouldn’t have survived.”
Rising inflation, declining advertising revenues, declining cable news ratings, and investor concerns about the economic outlook were some of the reasons CNN had to employ some draconian methods.