In the wake of outgoing CNN U.S. president Jon Klein’s firing last week, Klein’s replacement, sister network HLN’s Ken Jautz, was asked about how important Anderson Cooper is “to the CNN lineup and brand.”
Cooper is essentially the bread and butter of CNN’s primetime lineup, which Klein rearchitected in the months leading up to his dismissal, and which Jautz has now inherited. Klein replaced Campbell Brown with Eliot Spitzer, whose new show debuts on Oct. 4. To succeed Larry King, who is leaving his long-running interview show later this fall, Klein plucked “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan, who begins in January. If Spitzer and Morgan don’t revive CNN’s struggling ratings — which many media watchers suspect they won’t — and John King continues to flail in the 7 p.m. slot he’s helmed since March, that leaves Cooper, perhaps CNN’s biggest star at the moment, to carry the network during primetime.
So, how important is he?
“Extremely,” Jautz told The Hollywood Reporter. “Anderson Cooper is the standard bearer for the type of journalism that CNN has become famous for and that we want to continue to be known for. One of the most memorable stories this year was Haiti, and nobody covered it as comprehensively as CNN, and nobody did as brilliant a job while covering it as Anderson Cooper or Sanjay Gupta and their teams.”
While this may be true, Cooper’s ratings, nonetheless, continue to slide.
The first hour of “Anderson Cooper 360,” which airs nightly from 10 to midnight, just had its worst quarter ever both in total viewers and in the 25-54 age demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.
During the third quarter of 2010, which ran from June 28 to September 24, Cooper averaged 582,000 total viewers and 180,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo, according to Nielsen. For some context, that’s down from 1.2 million total viewers and 424,000 demo viewers in the third quarter of 2008.
For Jautz, ushering in two new stars will be a pretty tall order without having to worry about breathing new life into the existing talent. But if Jautz feels as strongly about Cooper as he says he does, he’ll need to come up with a way to get more people to watch his show.
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